Self-driving campus shuttle to rise from ashes of Apple's 'Project Titan,' report says

Posted:
in General Discussion edited August 2017
After massive investments into self-driving car technology, Apple is transitioning away from a branded vehicle in favor of a shuttle service that will transport employees between corporate buildings, according to an in-depth report published Tuesday.


Apple's self-driving testbed spotted. | Source: Bloomberg


Citing sources familiar with Apple's "Project Titan," The New York Times reports the company will partner with an established automaker on a self-driving shuttle testbed. Apple is to supply autonomous driving technology, while the car maker provides a commercial vehicle fleet.

Dubbed PAIL, an acronym for Palo Alto to Infinite Loop, the pilot program will carry Apple employees from one Silicon Valley office to another. Exactly when the driverless shuttles will hit the road is unknown, though such vehicles would be a welcome addition to the soon-to-open Apple Park in Cupertino, Calif.

Beyond PAIL, the report includes a few interesting details about "Titan," which for all intents and purposes has been put on ice.

Apple started work on its self-driving car initiative in 2014, with rumors of the effort leaking out in early 2015. AppleInsider was first to detail key aspects of the initiative being carried out in secret offices in and around Cupertino.

At one point, Apple had well over 1,000 employees tasked to the project, ranging from automotive hardware to software. According to today's report, the company was looking to build a car from scratch, much like it did with iPhone. The effort included motorized car doors and a complete rethinking of what a car's interior should include -- and not include.

For example, the team investigated designs that lacked basic control equipment like a steering wheel or gas pedals. Other ideas involved a globe-like steering wheel that afforded better lateral movement than traditional designs.

AppleInsider sources said Apple's ambitious undertaking hit roadblocks in late 2015. The Times corroborates the internal discord, saying things began to unravel as disagreements between team leaders like former project lead Steve Zadesky and top executives took root.

In particular, one contingent wanted to build a semi-autonomous car in the same vein as Tesla's Autopilot-equipped vehicles, while another camp, led by CDO Jony Ive, pushed for a fully autonomous platform. The car's operating system, which according to The Times was dubbed "CarOS," was another bone of contention. Some sought to build the software off Apple's Swift programming language, while others wanted to employ C++.

After longtime exec Bob Mansfield assumed control of "Titan" last year, the team was whittled down to necessary personnel as the project refocused on software and supporting solutions. Apple is now rebuilding the group, but with a renewed emphasis on specialists in autonomous systems, not car production, today's report said.

Most recently, Apple obtained a self-driving car permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles and commenced testing of its autonomous technology using a small fleet of Lexus RX450h SUVs.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 124
    Good idea for proof of concept; Beta testing as it were. This is not the first time Apple has developed something for in-house use. If it proves successful it may find its way to us. Thinking of Keynote. Yeah, I know, a lot more complicated, but stil . . .
    cornchip
  • Reply 2 of 124
    irelandireland Posts: 17,477member
    Notice the arguments are about what kind of car to build, not whether they should—design arguments. Apple car is on the cards. You'd need to be horizontal not to see. I mean, how dare they test their software before announcing a vehicle.

    I can see why there would be these specific arguments regarding an electric vehicle at Apple. No stone left unturned. No panicked rush to market. Meanwhile however, Tesla's lead with continue. I've no doubt Apple has more design talent than Tesla, but Tesla are, you know, shipping.
    edited August 2017 cornchipSpamSandwich
  • Reply 3 of 124
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,229member
    This makes no sense. This use would be so trivial as to be a complete waste of talent, time and money. If this is, instead just a way to get experience, then it could be useful, but the article doesn’t seem to be saying that.

    i also have strong doubts that Apple could have a wide success with a real CarOS. There are several entrenched competitors in this field. And yes, I know that Apple has faced entrenched industries before. But it really needs to be remembered that Apple made its success in those industries with software based hardware, not just software. Why would car makers want Apple’s OS? If Apple is as restrictive about sending info back to the car makers as they are with other clients, such as the Ad agencies, then the car makers will have the same reaction. Which is to move away. And if Apple doesn’t, then Apple will lose its voice as the holder of privacy for its customers.

    So without an actual vehicle for this OS effort, I don’t see it going anywhere, unless fleets take a shine to it, and that seems very un Apple-like.
    cornchipiqatedotokyojimugatorguySpamSandwichpatchythepirate
  • Reply 4 of 124
    Well at least everyone on board the autonomous bus will be an Apple employee. Makes for a slight reduction in insurance premiums on said buses...
    Autonomy means I don't have to drive, which is great, but that's why enjoy using a bus—I would not need to drive regardless of a human or bot driver. So there's not much added value for passengers unless the said bus is measurably more safe.
  • Reply 5 of 124
    irelandireland Posts: 17,477member
    melgross said:
    This makes no sense. This use would be so trivial as to be a complete waste of talent, time and money. If this is, instead just a way to get experience, then it could be useful, but the article doesn’t seem to be saying that.
    We don't need anyone to tell us what is obvious. It makes perfect sense.
    edited August 2017
  • Reply 6 of 124
    Self driving cars cannot co-exist with idiot driven cars.
  • Reply 7 of 124
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 930member
    They should make a fleet of Mobile Meeting rooms.

    robin huber
  • Reply 8 of 124
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,408member
    melgross said:
    This makes no sense. This use would be so trivial as to be a complete waste of talent, time and money.
    This sounds like something the pundits have said about pretty much everything Apple has done.
    lolliverronn
  • Reply 9 of 124
    alandailalandail Posts: 678member
    C++??? I'd prefer to not have my self driving car crash.
    fotoformat
  • Reply 10 of 124
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 3,492member
    Soli said:
    melgross said:
    This makes no sense. This use would be so trivial as to be a complete waste of talent, time and money.
    This sounds like something the pundits have said about pretty much everything Apple has done.
    Really? When has Apple ever developed software for other people’s hardware? I guess maybe Motorola ROKR and we know how that turned out. 
  • Reply 11 of 124
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 3,492member
    melgross said:
    This makes no sense. This use would be so trivial as to be a complete waste of talent, time and money. If this is, instead just a way to get experience, then it could be useful, but the article doesn’t seem to be saying that.

    i also have strong doubts that Apple could have a wide success with a real CarOS. There are several entrenched competitors in this field. And yes, I know that Apple has faced entrenched industries before. But it really needs to be remembered that Apple made its success in those industries with software based hardware, not just software. Why would car makers want Apple’s OS? If Apple is as restrictive about sending info back to the car makers as they are with other clients, such as the Ad agencies, then the car makers will have the same reaction. Which is to move away. And if Apple doesn’t, then Apple will lose its voice as the holder of privacy for its customers.

    So without an actual vehicle for this OS effort, I don’t see it going anywhere, unless fleets take a shine to it, and that seems very un Apple-like.
    Reading the article it seemed as though there were team members wanting to reinvent the automobile and then reality set in and Bob Mansfield was brought in to bring the project back down to earth. But I don’t see how it goes anywhere unless Apple eventually develops its own vehicle.

    EDIT: John Gruber had his own take (which sounds like he might have heard some things from employees):

    “Shelved” is an accurate word, but I think many people have interpreted it as meaning that Apple has given up on designing its own vehicles. My understanding is that it’s more like “Let’s get the autonomous shit down first, and worry about designing vehicles to put it in after that.” Eat the steak one bite at a time rather than all at once.

    This makes the most sense. If you don’t have the software nailed there’s really no point to a car.

    edited August 2017 oneof52lolliverleavingthebiggronnrobin huberrepressthis
  • Reply 12 of 124
    Perhaps because Apple is American and the U.S. is crazy about cars, this has been a blind-spot for Apple. They really, really should not be encouraging the end of the planet. Apple really ought to be investing in eliminating the need to travel. 
  • Reply 13 of 124
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,408member
    Soli said:
    melgross said:
    This makes no sense. This use would be so trivial as to be a complete waste of talent, time and money.
    This sounds like something the pundits have said about pretty much everything Apple has done.
    Really? When has Apple ever developed software for other people’s hardware? I guess maybe Motorola ROKR and we know how that turned out. 
    Constantly, but that's not the point. The point is suggesting that Apple starting small is rudderless because you can't see how it can grow into something more or you envision that Apple has to come out with something epic when pretty much everything they do starts with a manageable foundation.
    lolliverronn
  • Reply 14 of 124
    I can think of several reasons for Apple Car, but what I do believe is, it will come down to "ecosystem stickiness". Imagine a person who activates the car system by inserting an iPhone to the slot, where it acts as a brain to the AR interface, assisted by AI Siri, utilise that person ID for operating authorisation, paying for toll by accessing Apple Pay, accessing his/her account to download the designated map (and probably auto drive to the destination), continuing reading ebook from the iBook, or playing the music from Apple Music, etc. It might sound far fetch but every big things has a beginning.
    lolliverronn
  • Reply 15 of 124
    If Apple is focussing on software for their first car, that could be because they have decided to purchase (via a friendly or hostile takeover) an existing car company outright. Most of the big car companies have a total market cap of $40-$80 billion. Apple could even buy out Toyota for $180 billion. But I would rather see Apple shell out a measly $1 billion for McLaren Automotive (though I suspect they have their eyes on BMW.) McLaren's cars are the "Apple of automobiles", in my opinion. Right now the cheapest McLaren, the MP4-12C, is about $200K, and Apple would have to work a little on reducing that price. In 23 years of Top Gear, only nine other cars have gone higher on their charts than the entry-level MP4-12C, one of which, the very top one, is another McLaren, the 675LT.
    GG1
  • Reply 16 of 124
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 930member
    If Apple is focussing on software for their first car, that could be because they have decided to purchase (via a friendly or hostile takeover) an existing car company outright. Most of the big car companies have a total market cap of $40-$80 billion. Apple could even buy out Toyota for $180 billion. But I would rather see Apple shell out a measly $1 billion for McLaren Automotive (though I suspect they have their eyes on BMW.) McLaren's cars are the "Apple of automobiles", in my opinion. Right now the cheapest McLaren, the MP4-12C, is about $200K, and Apple would have to work a little on reducing that price. In 23 years of Top Gear, only nine other cars have gone higher on their charts than the entry-level MP4-12C, one of which, the very top one, is another McLaren, the 675LT.
    Why buy a whole car company when there are fully fitted factories sitting idell the whole world over?
    With supply chains and labour set up to deliver and wondering what to do now.
    edited August 2017 ronn
  • Reply 17 of 124
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    They keep saying project Titan is "dead" when in fact nobody knows what the hell is going on there.

    Notice Apple invested 1B into the Chinese Uber company, Didi,  AFTER that "death".
    That's one hell of investment huh.

    Tells me a lot of low lying employee thinks they know the whole game when they're just a small cog.

    I think reorient when they whole think will fit into the ecosystem is a more proper wording.

    Considering the late Didi investment, Car as a service is the way I see this going.
    StrangeDaysronn
  • Reply 18 of 124
    jd_in_sbjd_in_sb Posts: 1,482member
    No need to rush things at all. There will be self-driving car fatalities and the car/software makers will be blamed in the media. I'd hate to see Apple have to explain why a code error or unanticipated scenario sent someone to the mortuary.
  • Reply 19 of 124
    kevin kee said:
    I can think of several reasons for Apple Car, but what I do believe is, it will come down to "ecosystem stickiness". Imagine a person who activates the car system by inserting an iPhone to the slot, where it acts as a brain to the AR interface, assisted by AI Siri, utilise that person ID for operating authorisation, paying for toll by accessing Apple Pay, accessing his/her account to download the designated map (and probably auto drive to the destination), continuing reading ebook from the iBook, or playing the music from Apple Music, etc. It might sound far fetch but every big things has a beginning.
    I'm not sure I see the point of using a phone, which is limited by its size, to power a car's system. Sure, have an Apple account so you have all of your maps, music, payments for gas and tolls etc but you don't need to physically use the phone for that, just TouchID/bluetooth/NFC/retina scan. If you have a dedicated mobile connection in the car, you don't need a phone. It also means families that aren't 100% Apple can use the car.
  • Reply 20 of 124
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,468member
    Soli said:
    melgross said:
    This makes no sense. This use would be so trivial as to be a complete waste of talent, time and money.
    This sounds like something the pundits have said about pretty much everything Apple has done.
    Really? When has Apple ever developed software for other people’s hardware? 
    CarPlay. 
    edited August 2017 gatorguyalandailronn
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