We’ve heard for some time now that Apple had decided to get out of the game of trying to build an entire self-driving car itself and was instead focusing on the software side of autonomous driving. Now, in a new report by Daisuke Wakabayashi at The New York Times, we see that those smaller ambitions have a new waypoint: a self-driving shuttle to ferry employees between Apple’s current campus and the new one.
The shuttle project is reportedly called “PAIL,” short for Palo Alto to Infinite Loop, and will be built on to another car manufacturer’s van rather than on something Apple itself will make. Apple has a permit to test self-driving cars and some Lexuses driven by Apple software were spotted earlier this year.
— Alex Webb (@atbwebb) April 27, 2017
It’s a far cry from the original ambition for Project Titan, the codename that has been bandied about for Apple’s autonomous car efforts. According to the New York Times, some earlier Titan designs called for “spherical wheels” to replace regular tires, so cars could move laterally.
Interesting tidbit: Apple worked on car doors w motors to open silently and spherical — yes, spherical — tires https://t.co/WatZTLWdgW
— Daisuke Wakabayashi (@daiwaka) August 22, 2017
Apple’s not alone among tech companies in giving up on making the whole car. Waymo is also focusing on building software for cars made by traditional manfacturers (Because everything Waymo is confusing, a reminder that it’s a division of Alphabet, which is the parent company of Google, and you previously thought of the whole thing as Google’s self-driving car because that’s what it once was.)
The New York Times also lays out some of the internal debates within Apple that led to this point — which apparently went all the way down to which programming language to use for Car OS.