"This is probably the largest setback in a history filled with setbacks for Apple’s car project."

Empty Seats

Apple's secretive self-driving car project has been served its next big blow, putting an already troubled project on even thinner ice.

The project's lead Doug Field is leaving to join Ford as its chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer, Bloomberg reports.

Field has a packed résumé. The automotive veteran was also crucial in helping Tesla launch its blockbuster sedan, the Model 3.

Field Day

In other words, Ford just made a killer hire.

"Doug is one of the world’s most respected engineering and product design leaders and has been a driving force behind breakthrough products across auto, tech and mobility, including at Apple, Tesla and Segway," Ford CEO Jim Farley said in a statement.

Field will oversee the development of the US carmaker's Blue Oval Intelligence software suite that delivers software to its smart vehicles.

"I’m thrilled to be joining Ford as it embraces a transition to a new, complex and fascinating period in the auto industry," Field said in the statement. "It will be a privilege to help Ford deliver a new generation of experiences built on the shift to electrification, software and digital experiences, and autonomy."

Big Blow

While it's a great day for Ford, it isn't one for Apple. The tech giant's efforts to build a car already were served a major blow in June when several key managers left the team — which was being led by Field at the time.

"This is probably the largest setback in a history filled with setbacks for Apple’s car project," Apple reporter Mark Gurman tweeted in response to the news. "As I wrote in January, there is no Apple Car launching anytime soon, not 2024, not 2025."

In fact, it might already be too late for the project as a whole. "Further out now, if ever," Gurman added.

READ MORE: Ford Hires Apple Car Chief in Coup for Recovering Carmaker [Bloomberg]

More on Apple's car project: It Sounds Like the Apple Car Is in Serious Trouble

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