Apple Alumni Join Self-driving Startup Aeva

Self-driving sensor startup Aeva Inc, founded by two Apple Inc alumni, has hired another former Apple executive to oversee manufacturing and supply chain operations ahead of an expected deal to become a public company later this month.

Aeva, founded by former Apple engineers Soroush Salehian and Mina Rezk, makes a lidar sensor that helps cars gain a three-dimensional view of the road and detect how quickly distant objects are moving. The company said Tuesday it hired Tim Willis as vice president of global supply chain, manufacturing and strategy.

Willis most recently oversaw manufacturing and supply chain operations at Waymo, Alphabet Inc’s autonomous driving unit. Willis also worked at Apple and Motorola after a starting his career at Ford Motor Co.

Willis said part of his job will be to develop supplier relationships well before Aeva launches production, drawing on his experience at Apple securing factory equipment.

Aeva has deals to develop lidar sensors with tier-one automotive suppliers Denso Corp and ZF Friedrichshafen AG.

“I secured that equipment years before anybody else, and when others tried to copy Apple’s designs, they weren’t able to do it,” Willis told Reuters in an interview. “It’s the same here. We have to look ahead 24 to 36 months and make sure our suppliers are able to support us.”

Aeva is in the process of becoming publicly traded through a reverse merger with blank-check firm InterPrivate Acquisition Corp in a deal that has raised $563 million. The deal is expected to close later this month.

Aeva plans to use the proceeds to pursue developing a version of its sensor for as-yet unspecified consumer products.

“I looked at this as a product that’s not just 100% automotive – it’s a company that could sell into many different markets,” Willis said of his decision to join.

By Stephen NellisReuters

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