It is not so long ago that we were still wondering what Apple’s plans were in the self-driving automotive industry and whether the project really does have a future. Now it turns out that Apple is testing at least on its own campus with Volkswagen vans to use it as autonomous shuttles. Apple had not previously arranged an agreement with BMW and Mercedes-Benz apparently because Apple wanted to check the data and the design.
According to the NYT (alternative link), the whole car-team at Apple is busy working on the self-driving shuttles and is already well behind the internal schedule. It will not go well with Apple’s car-team anyway, because hundreds of employees would have left already after the project had 1000 people to work with two years ago. Motivation has dropped significantly, the sources say. That may also be because Apple does not have commercial plans for the self-driving cars in the short term and so everyone is doing this project without any prospect of a bigger plan.
The partnership with Volkswagen shows that there are certain parties interested to work with Apple, but whether that will actually yield something on the public road in the future is still to be seen. As we said, there are too many parties involved with self-driving cars for a third party who also wants to participate. If Apple enters the market at a (much) later time with the freshly reinvented wheel, it remains to be seen who is waiting for it.
It is in any case, not BMW, Mercedes-Benz, McLaren, Lexus, Nissan and BYD because they have all been lost as potential partners. Perhaps Volkswagen has jumped on the chance to distance itself from the ‘sjoemel’-label and to partner with one of the most respected brands in the world. Whether that will actually result in an iVolkswagen, we will know that in a few years.