Apple mystery van 001

Apple is recruiting experts in automotive technology and vehicle design to work at a new top-secret research lab, Financial Times reported on Friday. Among the new-hires is former president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development Johann Jungwirth.

Citing several insider sources, the outlet says Apple set up the new research lab late last year at a confidential Silicon Valley location. And it’s believed that the facility is being used by a team, led by experienced iPhone managers, to research new automotive products.

One theory is that these products include an “advanced software platform” for car-makers that builds on CarPlay. But others feel that the background of the auto-experts being hired and the level of seniority involvement suggest something much bigger is in the works.

“Three months ago I would have said it was CarPlay,” a well-informed source told Financial Times’ Tim Bradshaw. “Today I think it’s a car.” The person added that Jony Ive and his design team have been holding meetings with auto execs and engineers in recent months.

The news comes as rumors of Apple’s interest in the automotive industry are beginning to intensify. Last week a camera-equipped vehicle registered to the firm was spotted driving around San Francisco, followed by reports it’s engaged in a poaching war with Tesla Motors.

Source: Financial Times