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Ex-Apple director Lattner striving to make cars an 'appliance' at Tesla

Now heading up Autopilot development at Tesla, former Apple director Chris Lattner says that he's hoping to "accelerate the path to cars being appliances that solve people's problems," rather than machines that require constant maintenance.

"Cars are really important. But I'm what I consider to be an 'un-car person', Lattner said on a recent episode of the Accidental Tech Podcast. "I'm personally not the kind of guy who loves doing oil changes and fiddling around with them. I just want something that is reliable, that works, ideally drives me everywhere I want to go, and I don't have to think about it.

"It's solving my problems, it's not something I have to care for, feed and maintain. That's the way I look at cars," he continued.

Lattner noted that he hadn't considered working for a car company before, but simply because he didn't think he had relevant skills. Autopilot, however, is Tesla's self-driving platform, highly dependent on software as much as hardware. A limited version of the technology is already present in cars like the Model S, and can keep a vehicle driving on a highway while maintaining a safe distance from other drivers, even changing lanes on-command when it's safe to do so.

Autopilot is a "really exciting and really big problem and it kind of fits with my desire to solve nearly impossible problems and take on new things," Lattner explained.

He added that he expects fully autonomous cars within a decade or less, partly because cars have access to technologies like radar, which trump human senses.

Lattner —the principal creator of LLVM, and Apple's Swift programming language —joined Tesla this month in another sign of the ongoing poaching battle between the two companies.

Apple is known to be working on its own self-driving platform under the codename Project Titan, but its exact state is still wrapped in secrecy. The company was at one point said to be authoring a complete vehicle, but is now believed to be waiting until late 2017 to decide whether it wants to resume that effort or simply partner with a third-party automaker.

Either way, Apple's platform could distinguish itself by using augmented reality technology. A finished product likely won't hit the roads until the early 2020s.