Apple to Embark on Electric Car Autonomous Systems

Apple reportedly working on self-driving employee shuttle for its campuses

Ever since the original iPhone changed the mobile landscape 10 years ago, Apple has been under pressure to produce the "next big thing". This is not the first time that we have heard this after initial reports pointing out that the company is focusing on bringing an autonomous vehicle to compete with Google and Tesla. Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed in June that Apple is developing autonomous-driving systems, but not an actual auto.

Due to the NYT report, those comments are now even more telling, as Apple's ostensible plans of creating its own marketable autonomous cars were likely dwindling for some time. The in-house shuttle service is not yet operational, but is part of a plan that Apple intends to put in place.

According to a report in the New York Times, five people familiar with Apple's vehicle project, code-named "Titan", claim that Apple is now working on a system called PAIL, short for Palo Alto to Infinite Loop, which will be used to shuttle employees between its various offices in Silicon Valley.

Apple also wanted to integrate all the sensors seamlessly into the vehicle to avoid the bumps and cones on current self-driving cars.

The tech giant even explored the prospect of employing spherical wheels, rather than the traditional tire-shape, to decipher if cars could increase its lateral maneuvering, reports TheNYT. But the company has reportedly since scaled back its autonomous-driving plans.

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Apple's in-house shuttle service, which isn't operational yet, follows Waymo, Uber and a number of auto companies that have been testing driverless cars on city streets around the world. However, individuals in the design time, including Apple's chief designer Jonathan Ive, wanted to build fully autonomous cars.

Such lofty goals in such a nascent area of technology, along with alleged "arbitrary or unrealistic deadlines" and "shifting priorities", ensnared Apple, according to the employees. The company tapped Bob Mansfield, a longtime executive who over the years had led hardware engineering for some of Apple's most successful products, to oversee Titan. There was fierce debate about whether it should be programmed using Swift, Apple's own programming language, or the industry standard, C++.

This fits in with an interview that Apple CEO Tim Cook gave to Bloomberg back in June when he said that the company was working on "autonomous systems". Cook mentioned how the modern descendants of the Model- T would be shaken to the very chassis, with the growing importance of software and shift away from internal combustion engine, along with the rise of autonomous vehicles.

Apple's automotive ambitions might finally come to life near its sprawling new headquarters, but we shouldn't expect to see an Apple Car anytime soon.

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