It’s no secret that Uber wants to develop its own self-driving car technology, but much like Google, it isn’t clear if the company only wants to develop the technology to be implemented in existing vehicles or go all the way and develop its own car. The ride-sharing company’s latest hire suggest it could be the latter.
We learned that earlier this month, Uber hired veteran automotive designer Richard Donnelly for the role of “Senior Designer” at the company’s Advanced Technology Center.
Uber created the Advanced Technology Center in Pittsburgh earlier this year to support research in the development of self-driving vehicles. The company hired several robotic experts from the neighboring Carnegie Mellon University.
On its website, the company lists dozens of open positions at the center, most having to do with aspects of self-driving technology like computer vision, mapping and software engineering.
During his 20+ year career as a designer, Donnelly worked on several concept cars for Ford, GM, Hyundai, VW, and most recently Tesla Motors.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Donnelly worked on “classified” concepts for Tesla in 2009 and again from 2011 to 2015.
While automakers often unveil concept cars at auto shows, the concepts themselves rarely make it to production, but they are useful to showcase the companies’ latest technology and to test some new designs.
Tesla doesn’t follow this strategy and only showcases alpha prototypes it intends to bring to production, which would explain why Donnelly’s concepts for the company haven’t been made public.
Tesla operates a design studio in Los Angeles where designers work on the company’s future concepts. Above is an image of the area of the design studio where they build clay models of their designs. The image is a screenshot taken from a video piece on Tesla CEO Elon Musk by the Australian version of 60 Minutes.
In recent years, Donnelly’s work appears to have evolved mainly around electric vehicles. Beyond Tesla, he also worked on electric taxi concepts for GoGreen Auto in Hong Kong and on electric vehicle charging products at GRIDbot.
Here’s a timeline of Donnelly’s design portfolio from 1994 to 2012:
Featured Image by Damon Lavrinc / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc. – Tesla EYE design study vehicle from the Istituto Europeo di Design of Turin