Apple Inks Deal With Volkswagen for Self-Driving Employee Shuttles

Apple has signed a deal with Volkswagen to use Volkswagen vans as self-driving shuttles designed to transport employees around its various campuses and office buildings in the San Francisco Bay Area, reports The New York Times.

Apple has been working on developing the shuttle program, called "PAIL" or Palo Alto to Infinite Loop, since last summer. At the time news of Apple's work on the program first surfaced, the company was said to be planning to install its own self-driving software in a commercial vehicle from an automaker, which has turned out to be Volkswagen.

One of the Lexus SUVs Apple uses to test its autonomous driving software

Under the terms of the deal, T6 Transporter vans from Volkswagen will be turned into self-driving shuttles for employees.

Apple's self-driving shuttle program is said to be behind schedule and "consuming nearly all of the Apple car team's attention," hinting at ongoing problems on its car-related project, which has already been scaled back.

Apple originally had grander plans for autonomous vehicles and over the course of the past several years, attempted to ink deals with companies like BMW and Mercedes-Benz, which would have led to the development of an all-electric autonomous vehicle.

According to today's report, no deal was able to be established because Apple was asking potential partner companies to "hand over control" of data and design, something no car manufacturer was prepared to do.

When its grandiose self-driving vehicle plans fell through, Apple shifted focus to autonomous driving software under the leadership of Bob Mansfield.

Apple is now working on its shuttle program and has been testing several Lexus SUVs equipped with self-driving hardware and software out on the streets of Cupertino and surrounding areas. Beyond the shuttle plan, Apple is said to have no clear idea of what it's going to do with its autonomous driving project.

Related Roundup: Apple Car

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
28 months ago
They can’t even make my iPhone bug free. As if I’m ever going to trust their driverless car software.
(That goes for all tech companies and all driverless cars as well).
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
28 months ago
Ive been a VW driver since 1998. They took some well deserved heat from the diesel scandal as they should. But for the money I won't drive anything else.

And their cars get better and better.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
28 months ago
I still don't see self driving cars as the future.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
28 months ago
Hopefully it won’t use Apple maps because a driverless car following Apple maps would get people killed.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
28 months ago
Not the only company this can be said about, but Apple has lost its focus. This self-driving car baloney is evidence of that. Let the automobile manufacturers worry about vehicles, and let the computer companies focus on computers. Apple is stretching itself way too thin, with hands in multiple cookie jars: automobiles, media production, smart devices... oh, and maybe a couple of computers, if they have the time. It's greed and hubris, plain and simple; Apple's eyes are too big for its stomach.

Not to mention, no one has made a valid argument for what's so great about self-driving cars anyhow. For all the complaining people do about the dangers of humans behind the wheel, I don't see how computers are an improvement. The human brain is still light-years ahead of the most advanced electronic circuits in its ability to comprehend, adjust and integrate the multitude of information received when driving a vehicle (or performing any other complex task). For all its potential shortcomings, I'd trust my life to human judgement than a machine algorithm any day.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
28 months ago

It could allow people who are unable to drive, for whatever reason, a way to stay in their homes instead of having to sell. Think of someone who has to move into an assisted living facility because they can't get to a doctors office. This usually destroys whatever savings that person had for retirement.

That sounds great, but if someone unable to drive (i.e., handicapped or elderly) cannot afford to hire someone to drive them, how would they afford an entire driverless car (or, for the sake of argument, even a modification to their current car)? We'd like to suppose that a family member or friend would be around to help, but it seems we're all functioning on the assumption that Grandma's been deserted by her children. See, the problem starts to become about deeper social issues than any particular technology can solve. The engineer who designs such products with the hope of solving these issues has a terribly simplified view of the world in his head.

I agree there has to be a ton of work to be done in this regards, but, I would be more comfortable in that than all idiot human drivers.

So we can't trust humans to drive, but we can trust humans to design algorithms by which computers drive? o_O By your logic, I am better off trusting my life to a few hundred engineers whom I've never met (and who will most likely never face direct responsibility for potential failures of their design) than I am trusting the men and women driving next to me, who have as equal and vested an interest in our mutual safety as I do.

Look, I understand the ideals, and the purported benefits to society are noble goals. Unfortunately, new technology always creates as many problems as it attempts to solve, if not more. Moreover, whether our goals are good or bad, the unerring faith which many of us increasingly put on the shoulders of science and engineering is, in my opinion, very much misplaced.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iPhone 12 Sizes Compared with iPhone SE, 7, 8, SE 2, X, 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max [Update]

Tuesday July 7, 2020 6:49 pm PDT by
Apple is planning on launching the iPhone 12 this fall which is rumored to be coming in 3 different sizes: 5.4", 6.1" and 6.7". The middle size (6.1") matches up with the currently shipping iPhone 11, but the other two sizes will be entirely new. Over the weekend, there was some excitement about how well the new 5.4" iPhone 12 compares to the original iPhone SE. Those who have been hoping...

Everything New in iOS 14 Beta 2: New Calendar Icon, Files Widget and More

Tuesday July 7, 2020 11:38 am PDT by
Apple today released the second beta of iOS 14 to developers for testing purposes, tweaking and refining some of the features that are coming in the update. Below, we've rounded up all of the changes that we found in the second beta. - Calendar icon - There's a new Calendar app icon in iOS 14 beta 2, with the day of the week abbreviated rather than spelled out. - Clock icon - The clock...

Hands On With iPhone 12 Models Showing New Sizes and Design

Monday July 6, 2020 2:04 pm PDT by
Ahead of the launch of new iPhones we often see dummy models created based on leaked schematics and specifications, with those models designed to let case makers create cases for the new devices ahead of their release. We got our hands on a set of dummy models that represent the iPhone 12 lineup, giving us our first close look at the iPhone 4-style design and the different size options. Subscri ...

Developer's Visual Comparison of macOS Catalina and Big Sur Offers Closer Look at Apple's UI Redesign for Macs

Tuesday July 7, 2020 4:00 am PDT by
macOS 11 Big Sur is the next major release of Apple's operating system for Mac, and following its preview at WWDC, one of the biggest discussions has revolved around the all-new user interface redesign. Developers are still learning what the impact the new UI will have on their apps, and with that in mind, app designer Andrew Denty has compiled an extensive visual comparison of the user...

Analyst Believes iPhone 12 Pricing Will Start $50 Higher Even Without EarPods or Charger in Box

Wednesday July 8, 2020 9:35 am PDT by
Despite multiple reports indicating that Apple will not include EarPods or a wall charger with iPhone 12 models this year, one analyst believes that pricing will still increase slightly compared to the iPhone 11 lineup. In a research note provided to MacRumors, analyst Jeff Pu forecasted that iPhone 12 pricing will start at $749 for a new 5.4-inch model, an increase of $50 over the base...

14-Inch MacBook Pro With Mini-LED Display Expected to Enter Production in 2021

Wednesday July 8, 2020 7:51 am PDT by
Apple suppliers will begin competing to win manufacturing orders for new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with Mini-LED displays in the first quarter of 2021, according to Taiwanese research firm TrendForce. Rumors of a 14-inch MacBook Pro have surfaced since Apple replaced the 15-inch MacBook Pro with a new 16-inch model last year. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has previously said that...

Apple Seeds First Betas of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 to Public Beta Testers

Thursday July 9, 2020 10:14 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the first public betas of upcoming iOS and iPadOS 14 updates to its public beta testing group, two weeks after first providing the updates to developers after the WWDC keynote and a day after seeding the second developer betas. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing program can download the iOS/‌iPadOS‌ 14 updates over the air after installing ...

Apple's Arm-Based Macs With Apple Silicon Chips Will Support Thunderbolt

Wednesday July 8, 2020 3:14 pm PDT by
Apple is working on Macs that use its custom Apple-designed Apple Silicon chips instead of Intel chips, but Apple has committed to continuing to support Thunderbolt, reports The Verge. In a statement, an Apple spokesperson said that Apple's upcoming machines will offer support for Intel's Thunderbolt USB-C standard. "Over a decade ago, Apple partnered with Intel to design and develop...

Apple Cuts iPhone Trade-In Values as iPhone 12 Launch Nears

Tuesday July 7, 2020 7:46 am PDT by
With just two months to go until the usual timeframe for Apple's iPhone launch events, Apple is cutting back on maximum trade-in values of previous-generation iPhones for those looking to upgrade to a new model. Maximum values on more recent models have dropped by $30–$50, while older models have generally dropped by $5–$20 with a few models seeing no change in value.iPhone XS Max: $500 to...

Some iPhone Users Report Significant Battery Drain Due to Music App Background Activity in iOS 13.5.1

Wednesday July 8, 2020 1:49 am PDT by
A significant minority of iPhone users have taken to Apple's Support Communities and Reddit to report battery drain issues largely related to the Music app and high levels of background activity. Hundreds of users, many running iOS 13.5.1 on devices both new and old, are experiencing rapid battery drain when the Music app is not in use. In some cases, the background activity occurs over...