After years of development, an Apple vehicle might finally hit the road, but it won’t be Apple branded. For years Apple had an ambition to develop their own self-driving vehicle, but according to an article by The New York Times with accounts from anonymous sources stating that their have been road blocks in the way.
According to these anonymous sources the project has been continuously shifting its direction and has resulted in the departure of hundreds of employees and a big hit to morale. Apple has clearly been behind the likes of Waymo, Uber, and other car manufactures in terms of putting cars on the road. Apple had originally intended to create a car that would be wholly designed and built in-house, but quickly had realized the difficulty of creating these individual parts.
Apple soon went to enlist the help of other car manufactures to help put cars on the road. In 2015, Apple hired a firm called Torc Robotics to help retrofit two SUVs from Lexus, and eventually was authorized by California regulators to use 55 of these SUVs on public roads. But a formal partnership with Lexus never came about.
Soon Apple went looking towards partnerships with others, namely BMW. BMW was a top choice for Apple, seeing as they both have a focus on high-end mainstream products and many of Apple’s employees drive BMWs. But according to the sources the deal was dead because neither company wanted to give the either too much control of the customer experience.
Next was Mercedez-Benz who were a close second. The two companies held talks for more than a year, but these negotiations came to similar end due to disagreements over control of data and experience. Apple continued to meet with other manufactures such as Nissan, BYD Auto, and McLaren. None of these were successful as automakers were weary about giving up control to Apple or Apple was holding out for something better.
Finally late last year Apple found a partner in Volkswagen. The partnership calls for Volkswagen’s T6 vans to be made in electric self-driving shuttles, according to sources. The frame, wheels and chassis will remain the same as the regular T6, but Apple will replace many of the components including the seats and dashboard. Computers, sensors, and a large battery will be added. The goal of the project, other than improving Apple’s self-driving software, is for the modified T6 to act as a shuttle between the two Apple Silicon Valley campuses. The van will be self-driving but will still have a driver to take over if needed and another member in the passenger seat tracking performance.
The executives at the Apple car division have stated that the shuttle will be ready by the end of 2018, but according to one source, that deadline will be missed. There is no word of whether this partnership will carry on past the completion of the shuttle.
Source: The New York Times