Daisuke Wakabayashi

Those involved include DJ Novotney, an Apple veteran with a history of successfully shipping products. Mr. Novotney, one of the first hires to the program last year, is a vice president of program management, overseeing a growing team of managers who coordinate activities among various teams. He didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Asked last week by late-night talk-show host Stephen Colbert about Apple’s interest in a driverless car, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said: “We look at a number of things along the way, and we decide to really put our energies in a few of them.”

Gene Munster, an equity analyst with Piper Jaffray, in a Sept. 1 research note estimated Apple’s chances of making a car at between 50% and 60%. He said he expects any Apple car to have three distinctive features: a unique design; the ability to work with other Apple devices; and some autonomous capability.

As Apple pushes forward, the company is finding it difficult to keep its automobile interest under wraps.

In May, Apple employees met with officials from GoMentum Station, a 5,000–acre former Navy weapons station east of San Francisco that is now a secure testing facility for autonomous and connected vehicles. In emails obtained through a public-records request, Apple expressed interest in scheduling time at the facility.