Running out of options, Apple turns to VW for autonomous employee shuttle
As Apple has hit roadblock after roadblock in attempting to jump-start its work in autonomous vehicles, there’s now word that the company has settled on a willing partner to deliver on self-driving employee shuttles.
Now, The New York Times reports that Apple is now working with Volkswagen to outfit self-driving technology on the automaker’s T6 Transporter for use between its California campuses in Palo Alto and Cupertino. But it’s a deal that has not come without difficulties: the tech giant had originally sought luxury brands BMW and Mercedes-Benz to supply to work on its all-electric fleet — part of why this project has been stalled for three years.
Three sources to the Times say that as with Siri, Apple has not put in place a strong directive and consistent leadership on the project. Those who signed on in the beginning initially had plans to build the actual car itself in-house. Contracting with smaller and larger manufacturers has also been difficult because Apple wanted to have more control over the project than most partners would allow and that the company wanted a high-end brand fitting its image — CEO Tim Cook drives a BMW, for example.
Turnover has been quick and, all the while, discourse on autonomous cars has been somewhat chilled since one of Uber’s self-driving cars killed a pedestrian in Arizona — the ride-hailing company has shuttered its research operations in that state, laying off 300 people.