Apple scales back self-driving ambitions, shifts focus to campus shuttle service

Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook

A few months ago, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook told Bloomberg in an interview that Apple was focused on building self-driving tech, as opposed to building its own autonomous vehicle. It turns out this decision may have been made because Apple’s self-driving team couldn’t decide on what they actually wanted from the vehicle.

Apple deciding to focus solely on self-driving tech aligns with the likes of Alphabet’s Waymo, Uber, Lyft and a number of car companies in opting to work on the tech behind the autonomy rather than the vehicles themselves. Despite this, according to the New York Times, Apple didn’t change its mind because of everybody else, but instead decided against the vehicle due to an undefined vision and disagreements over fully autonomous versus semi-autonomous.

The company started to change direction when current head of Titan, as Apple’s car project is codenamed, Bob Mansfield took over. Under Mansfield, plans to build a car were scrapped and the focus was shifted the underlying tech. This also led to the laying off of some hardware staff that have since been replaced with employees with expertise in autonomous systems, The Times reports.

Apple received a self-driving test permit in April, allowing it to test its technology in three 2015 Lexus RX 450h sport utility vehicles. But, for the time being, the tech giant is focusing on testing an in-house shuttle service that will carry employees between its various Silicon Valley offices. This venture is called PAIL, short for Palo Alto to Infinite Loop. Infinite Loop being the street where Apple’s main office in Cupertino, California is located, and Palo Alto, well, being Palo Alto.

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