Christopher “CJ” Moore, a former Tesla Autopilot software developer who departed last year to join Apple’s classified auto project, has joined Luminar, an Orlando, Florida-based lidar business, as its new head of software, according to the company. Moore was only at Apple for seven months.
Moore is one of a number of top executives who have joined Luminar, a company that develops laser sensors that enable autonomous vehicles “see” their surroundings. But his departure from Apple is yet another sign of the company’s challenges to retain personnel for Project Titan, its befuddling attempt to build an autonomous electric automobile.
“We’re attracting the best leaders in the world in their fields to execute our vision and deliver on the future of transportation,” Luminar CEO Austin Russell said in a statement. A spokesperson for Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The resignation is the latest in a series of changes for Apple’s automotive division, which has seen multiple personnel changes in recent years. Doug Field, the project’s leader, departed Apple last year to join Ford, where he was later named director of digital systems for the automaker’s new Model E electric and autonomous car division. Field was replaced by Kevin Lynch, who led Apple’s Watch group after serving as CTO of Adobe.
Moore joined Apple a few weeks later, in November 2021, to work on self-driving software, reporting to Stuart Bowers, another Tesla alum who had previously served as vice president of engineering.
Despite the fact that work on an autonomous electric car began in 2014, it is still in its early phases. Apple had previously stated that it only aimed to develop self-driving software for other carmakers, which was a departure from its original plan to build a car.
Bloomberg reported last year that Apple had finished “most of the essential work” on a new CPU that would power the yet-to-be-released electric autonomous vehicle. According to reports, the business is speeding up the development of its self-driving car, with a new goal of deploying it in just four years. After several pivots, Project Titan’s current goal is to develop an autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel.
Moore is an intriguing addition to Luminar. According to a note from a discussion with officials from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, he pushed back against Elon Musk’s statements about the company’s autonomous vehicle efforts while at Tesla. The document stated, “Elon’s tweet does not match engineering reality per CJ.” “Tesla is currently at Level 2.”
Russell, Luminar’s youthful CEO, has also questioned Musk’s promises of autonomy. Russell dubbed Tesla’s advanced driver assist systems “best in class” in an interview with The Verge last year, but said that the firm has “dug itself into a really deep hole” by incorrectly dubbing its current version of Autopilot “Full Self-Driving.” Russell sometimes refers to himself as the “leading skeptic of the autonomous industry.”
Luminar is said to have a cooperation with Tesla, despite Musk’s outspoken dismissal of lidar as a “crutch” and a “fool’s errand.” Last year, one of Luminar’s rooftop lidar sensors was seen on a Tesla Model Y in Florida.