To look back, Apple CEO Tim Cook has confirmed in 2017 that the company’s secretive driverless car project, codenamed Project Titan, would focus, at least for the time being, on creating the autonomous AI that powers self-driving cars.
Apple’s self-driving car project has grown since then, with the company expanding its fleet to 55 test cars, up from the three it started with last year.
The recent reports by The New York Times state that the company’s negotiations with German automakers, including BMW and Mercedes, have led to developing an all-electric self-driving car, which has fallen through after both companies refused to let Apple control over the design of the vehicle and the data it produces. So, now, the report also added that Apple is partnering with Volkswagen to turn existing T6 Transporter vans into self-driving shuttles for Apple employees.
Since last year, it has been known that Apple’s car division, codenamed Project Titan, once aimed at making both the hardware and software for a new autonomous vehicle. But now it had shifted gears to focus in the near-term on a shuttle service known as PAIL, from Palo Alto to Infinite Loop. Again, here, Infinite Loop is the name of the street where the company’s previous main campus was located on, prior to the spaceship-shaped Apple Park opened last year. Now it has been known that Volkswagen is the company providing Apple with the actual vehicles.
The New York Times report, however, has added that the entire Apple car team seems to be consumed with getting this shuttle service off the ground and that there are no concrete plans for what comes after. That would further suggest that Apple’s ambitions with Project Titan have been even more severely diminished. The Times reports that hundreds of people have left the division in the few years since it was expanded to more than 1,000 employees.
Despite that, Apple’s prototype self-driving cars can be spotted driving around Palo Alto. The company also has more autonomous vehicles registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles than both Uber and Alphabet-owned Waymo. So, right now, it might be too early to count Apple out of the self-driving game. In fact, last August, CEO Tim Cook suggested that his company’s work in autonomous systems could be used “in a variety of ways” and in “in many different areas”. Thus, this becomes suggestive of the fact that Apple might have lofty plans in the robotics market or in some other application of computer vision and artificial intelligence.