In yet another blow for the troubled project, a key member of the Apple Car team has left the company. Doug Field, who for the past few years has held the title of Vice President, Special Projects, and has overseen the development of Apple's long-awaited car, has left Apple and joined the US carmaker Ford.

In a press release, Ford announces that Doug Field has joined the automotive giant and will be the chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer, reporting directly to the CEO. Among other things, he will be in charge of the development of self-driving systems.

"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," Field said.

Field began his career as a developer at Ford in the late 1980s, so this will be a homecoming of sorts. He has also worked at Tesla.

For Apple, it's a major disappointment: Bloomberg's Mark Gurman calls it "the largest setback in a history filled with setbacks for Apple's car project". He adds that the prospects of Apple actually launching a car in the next three to four years are now non-existent.

AI chief John Giannandrea will continue to lead that aspect of the Apple Car project, and Apple Watch chief Kevin Lynch has taken over some of the software elements. But it's unclear if either of these executives will ultimately take on overall leadership of the project, or if Apple will recruit from outside.

A surprising proportion of our stories about the Apple Car relate to the company's difficulties getting it off the ground - its clout in the consumer electronics industry does not appear to cut any ice in establishing this new venture. It has struggled to recruit partners from the automobile sector, for example.

But things had been looking up slightly this month, with the news - reported by MacRumors - that Apple had successfully recruited two former Mercedes engineers for its special projects team. At Mercedes, the two engineers focused on areas such as mass production of vehicles, steering, dynamics, software and project management.

The company has also recruited BMW veteran Ulrich Kranz and several other engineers from some of the world's largest car manufacturers. But the latest departure overshadows all of Apple's recent progress.

Catch up with all the developments affecting (and sometimes afflicting) Project Titan with our Apple Car news hub. If it's too far off - and realistically too expensive - to catch your interest, pick up a bargain on other items by browsing our guide to the best Apple deals.

This article originally appeared on Macworld Sweden. Translation and additional reporting by David Price.