No one outside Apple’s top executives is certain if Apple can and will build its own self-driving electric vehicle (EV), but the recent hiring of Tesla Inc. vice president might indicate it’s probably leaning in this direction -- for now, at least.

The hiring of Steve MacManus, a former Tesla boss in charge of engineering for car exteriors and interiors, is being seen by some analysts as indicating something is indeed afoot in self-driving cars at Apple. But what this is, is open to question.

MacManus has been designated a “Senior Director” position at Apple but no one seems to know what it is he’ll be directing. He certainly can’t do any engineering for car exteriors and interiors since Apple doesn’t have a single car he can work on yet.

This has led to speculation MacManus might be working on other projects at Apple apart from the development of a self-driving car. He might also help lay the groundwork for a future Apple autonomous EV that may now be in its design stage.

The confusion as regards MacManus’ true role stems from the confusing smoke signals Apple keeps sending out as regards the true state of its autonomous EV project.

Apple is widely believed to be working on a self-driving electric vehicle project under the code name, Project Titan. In December 2018, speculation abounded about Apple’s plans to design its own self-driving EV, which some Wall Street analysts said might hit the road in 2023 to 2025.

Back in April, Project Titan made an appearance in the news with stories saying it wanted to equip Apple’s autonomous EVs with Lidar (light detection and ranging) sensors to allow them to better navigate their surroundings.

Sources noted Apple was exploring options for a “revolutionary design” in Lidar sensors. The company is said to have spoken with at least four companies looking to identify a new generation of sensor that’s “smaller, cheaper and more easily mass produced.”

Rumors resurfaced that Apple isn’t planning to develop and build a physical car but is focusing on developing the software that runs self-driving cars. Some believe Apple intends to license its technology to existing carmakers, leaving the door open to creating its own self-driving car in the future.

apple logo An Apple logo is displayed in an Apple retail store in Grand Central Terminal, January 29, 2019 in New York City. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images