Apple to test self-driving systems on employee shuttles

Posted August 24, 2017

The retrenchment occurred after a bold attempt to develop an "Apple Car" ended in confusion, reports The New York Times. The New York Times reports that the company has relegated research for autonomous vehicles to a software system that will power a self-driving shuttle in between its new spaceship campus and its old offices.

Apple has all but abandoned its original plans for building a vehicle in its own factories, and will instead focus its energies on building self-driving systems for other vehicles, according to the report. The in-house shuttle service is not yet operational, but is part of a plan that Apple intends to put in place. The shuttle is called PAIL, short for Palo Alto to Infinite Loop.

This has been the trend in Silicon Valley where technology companies are embarking on autonomous driving technology while staying clear of manufacturing cars.

Apple's ambitions to develop a driverless vehicle appear to be simmering, while other companies' autonomous tech endeavors are continuing or heating up. Apple even tried to literally reinvent the wheel by looking spherical wheels that would allow the vehicle to move laterally.

Its ambitions have been scaled back from a fully autonomous Apple auto, to a shuttle bus for staff.

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Apple employees working on its vehicle effort have experimented with everything from augmented reality dashboards to a whole new "CarOS" operating system to replacing the car's steering wheel with a spinning sphere that would offer a wider range of movement, according to The Times report. "And for Apple, the vehicle market is more than big enough to "move the needle" significantly, even as the world's largest company", wrote Icahn in the open letter. There was fierce debate about whether it should be programmed using Swift, Apple's own programming language, or the industry standard, C++.

Apple stepped up to regain course in the project previous year when it put longtime executive Bob Mansfield, in charge of Titan. In June, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook told Bloomberg News the company was "focusing on autonomous systems" but didn't go into details.

This is similar to how Google's self-driving cars began, by shuttling employees around the Googleplex campus in Mountain View, California.

Apple's automotive ambitions might finally come to life near its sprawling new headquarters, but we shouldn't expect to see an Apple Car anytime soon. An Apple-made mobile augmented reality chamber would have been really cool, and maybe we'll get something close in a decade or two.