Initially, it seemed like Apple was all gung-ho on the idea of building an autonomous vehicle. They reportedly had over 1,000 employees working on ‘project Titan’. However, it may have hit them that Tesla’s success at starting a new car company was more an exception than the rule. Last year, Tim Cook announced that Apple was investing in autonomous systems, not necessarily autonomous vehicle production itself. Now we find out that Apple has just partnered with Volkswagen to help develop their driverless technology.
According to the New York Times, Apple is going to use some Volkswagen T6 transporter vans to be the test mules for Apples soon-to-be self-driving shuttles on their campus in Palo Alto, California. Though, it seems Volkswagen may not have been their first choice. The NYT report claims that Apple originally tried to get BMW and Mercedes-Benz to help them build an autonomous electric vehicle, according to unnamed sources close to the project. Apples original vision for their autonomous vehicle featured luxury appointments and central facing seats to promote conversation within the vehicle.
The fact that Apple is turning to other automakers to build a car for them, as well as the fact that they have settled for a deal with Volkswagen, as opposed to a luxury manufacturer, indicate the trajectory that Apple’s autonomous project has taken recently. The company seems to be realizing that developing an automobile is extremely difficult, especially when you are trying to make an electric, autonomous vehicle.
What does Volkswagen get?
The other interesting piece of this deal is what it means for Volkswagen, a company that has recently thrown all of its chips towards electrification following the back lash from Dieselgate. We already know of VW’s plan to introduce level 5 autonomous fleets in 2021, plus we know about their plans to continue electrifying their lineup in the coming years. So I suppose this deal makes sense for Volkswagen on a number of levels. They get another company to help them develop two technologies that they are working on, while drawing more attention away from the Dieselgate scandal.
The question now lies in this partnership’s ability to produce a functional product, else Apple may have thrown four years of development, and surely a lot of money, down the drain.
To keep updated on Apple’s autonomous vehicle project, and the newly reported partnership with VW, be sure to stay tuned to TFLcar.com!
While we await more information on this story, why not check out our video on the Volkswagen California, VW’s non-US market camper van: