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Apple is reportedly shifting its focus from the electric car to self-driving software

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With hire of former BlackBerry exec Dan Dodge

Andrew Burton/Getty Images

More changes are underway at Apple's secretive electric car division. According to Bloomberg, the team has brought on Dan Dodge, the former head of BlackBerry's automotive software group who joined the Canadian phone maker in 2010 when it acquired his operating system company QNX. Dodge is the first high-profile hire by Bob Mansfield, the retired Apple hardware exec who was brought back this year to lead development on Project Titan, the code name for Apple's car efforts.

With Dodge onboard and Mansfield running the show, Apple is shifting its focus from a full-fledged electric vehicle to self-driving software, Bloomberg says. Although Apple is not ruling out making its own car, it's likely to do so only by acquiring or partnering with an established car maker. Because QNX developed entertainment and navigation software for car makers like Ford, Volkswagen, and Daimler, Dodge has valuable expertise working with the auto industry on technology-related partnerships.

Dan Dodge led QNX, which made a BlackBerry operating system and software for car makers

Apple's talks with companies like BMW and Daimler have reportedly halted in recent months, which may be why Mansfield is bringing in Dodge to help. The QNX co-founder will work under software lead John Wright, who reports to Mansfield, who himself answers to Cook, according to Bloomberg.

This renewed focus on software is the latest twist in Apple's car plans, which have generated immense interest and yet few concrete details since Titan was first revealed last year. The project is expected to ship a product, whether it be a software suite for autonomous vehicles or perhaps a physical car carrying that software, sometime in the next five to six years. An early target date of 2020 was set initially, but The Information reported earlier this month the target has shifted to 2021.

Still, Apple has hundreds of people working on the project and CEO Tim Cook has grown more eager to hint at the initiative in his veiled statements to investors. "The products that are in R&D — there is quite a bit of investment in there for products and services that are not currently shipping or derivations of what is currently shipping," Cook said in an earnings call on Tuesday. "There’s a lot of stuff that we’re doing beyond the current products."