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Apple Signs Driverless Car Deal With Volkswagen

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Apple building

Photo: atmxt

Having mastered the technology of smartphones as one of the leaders in that industry, Apple has had its sights on getting into the driverless car race. Apple’s original plans of building an Apple-branded autonomous car have been abandoned, and the company is now focusing on software for self-driving cars to be used by its employees.

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To get there, Apple reportedly has signed a deal with Volkswagen to turn Volkswagen’s new T6 Transporter vans into the self-driving shuttles for the company campus. The plan is to keep the T6 vans’ frame, wheels, and chassis, replace the dashboard and seats, and add other computers, sensors, and a large electric car battery.

This partnership is after Apple tried to negotiate with BMW and Mercedes-Benz first for an all-electric self-driving vehicle, but those talks ended with Apple’s requirements for the carmakers to hand over data and design control. The car program, which started in 2014, once had over 1,000 members, but these frequent changes, on top of the lack of a direction and plan, have prompted hundreds to leave the department that has been consumed by this project.

Apple’s vision was to build an electric driverless car with a lounge-like interior that allowed passengers to face each other. Other concepts included windshields and windows with augmented-reality or holographic displays, a special polymer sunroof to reduce heat from the sun, and windows with adjustable tint. Complications and difficulties with building the car led to Apple’s request for a partner that would retrofit its vehicles with the sensors and software Apple developed.

The original completion of the shuttle was scheduled for the end of 2018, but these repeated obstacles will cause that deadline to be missed. Apple’s four-year-old car program continues to undergo many setbacks, but hopefully this deal with Volkswagen will give the project the momentum it desperately needs.

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News Sources: New York Times