What Apple’s Car Plans Mean for Tech Pros

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Apple plans on building and shipping an electric car by 2019, according to unnamed sources speaking to The Wall Street Journal.

Apple executives have reportedly met with government officials about regulations, and begun ramping up a 1,800-member team to build the vehicle. While the car will be electric, the first generation will not be “fully autonomous,” the newspaper’s sources added.

Automobiles are a notoriously difficult, low-margin business, which raises questions about why Apple is (maybe) entering it in the first place. If Apple does manage to produce an electric car, it will find itself in fierce competition with not only Tesla, which builds and markets luxury battery-powered roadsters, but also Porsche, Volkswagen, and other manufacturers with plans to roll out electric vehicles over the next few years.

Over the summer, reports suggested that Apple was on the hunt for autonomous-driving experts, hiring specialists in everything from machine vision and robotics to automobile supply chains.

What does all this mean for tech pros? Those interested in getting into driving technology—whether on the hardware or software side—might find their opportunities multiplying over the next several years as Apple and other tech companies plunge into the industry. Google and Uber have made no secret about their interest in autonomous vehicles, which may eventually translate into full-fledged lines of business; and Tesla plans on releasing a mass-market electric vehicle sometime in 2017.

But which skills will prove the most in demand? That’s a much harder question, since, at this early stage, tech companies interested in the automotive industry are tight-lipped about any actual manufacturing plans. Given current designs and trends, however, it seems safe to say that anyone who specializes in machine learning and artificial intelligence could find themselves a recruiting target; likewise anyone with a background in battery design and development.