Apple's Autonomous Shuttle Service will use Volkswagen Vans
Over time Project Titan evolved from being a future Tesla competitor to that of a shuttle service, maybe a cab service over time. In March Patently Apple covered a patent supporting an autonomous cab/ride-sharing service that had traffic direction detection built-in. Today we're learning that Apple has decided to work with Volkswagen for some of its self-driving car efforts. According to the New York Times, the plan is to turn some of Volkswagen's T6 Transporter vans into autonomous shuttles for employees.
However, this project is reportedly behind schedule and taking up much of the time of Apple's autonomous driving team. Apple's lengthy talks pertaining to partnerships with manufacturers like BMW and Mercedes-Benz have ended.
Instead, Apple has signed a deal with Volkswagen to turn some of the carmaker's new T6 Transporter vans into Apple's self-driving shuttles for employees — a project that is behind schedule and consuming nearly all of the Apple car team's attention, said three people familiar with the project.
Apple's deal with Volkswagen, which has not been previously reported, and the failure of its talks with other automakers reflect the continuing travails and diminished scope of the company's four-year-old car program.
The project has suffered from repeated changes in direction that have hurt morale and led to hundreds of departures from its peak of more than 1,000 members two years ago, five former Apple employees said. They added that the project lacked a clear plan beyond the vans, including any near-term commercial goals.
Apple originally began its car project — known internally as Titan and T172 — in 2014. At the time, Apple planned to build a single vehicle that would upend society and industry, in what would be the automotive version of the iPhone. The company set to work on an electric driverless car with a lush interior reminiscent of a lounge or living room, where passengers face each other instead of the road, according to two early employees of the project."
Passengers facing each other was illustrated in a patent figure 6 of one of our March patent reports titled: "Patent of the Decade: Apple Reveals an Unbelievable VR Experience System for Next-Gen Autonomous Vehicles."
The NYTimes report added that "Apple enlisted software programmers, automotive engineers, rocket scientists and the industrial-design team of Apple's design chief, Jonathan Ive, to reimagine the car." For more on this story, read the full NYTimes report.
It was reported in January that Apple had nearly doubled the number of self-driving cars in its California test fleet, according to new figures obtained by the Financial Times. Apple currently has 55 autonomous test vehicles registered with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles as noted in the chart below, which is up from 27 in late January. That’s more than companies like Waymo and Uber, and second only to General Motors (which performs tests with Cruise, its self-driving division).
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