Lattner is a significant figure in the software space and spent 11 years at Apple, where he was was responsible for creating programming language Swift, which allows the building of apps on Apple platforms. Swift is now one of the fastest growing languages on Linux.
He has also been the lead author of open source project LLVM Compiler Infrastructure, a hugely influential project across both commercial products and academic research.
Lattner has been brought on board in order to oversee Autopilot full-time because it was previously led on a part-time basis by SpaceX vice-president of software Jinnah Hosein.
Hosein will now return full-time to SpaceX, the space exploration company of Tesla founder Elon Musk.
Electric car manufacturer Tesla hopes the hiring of Lattner will "accelerate the future of autonomous driving".
The poaching of Lattner from Apple is also significant because it is believed Apple is secretly preparing to launch into the electric car market.