Apple’s dream of self-driving tech seems to have picked up steam, as the company is reportedly working on a self-driving bus to ferry employees to and from its campus. If The New York Times is to be believed, the new service is dubbed “PAIL,” which is short for Palo Alto to Infinite Loop.
Self-driving bus to use third-party vehicle
According to The New York Times, the self-driving bus will be built on a van built by a major U.S. automaker rather than on a vehicle made in-house by Apple. The reason Apple will reportedly use a van from another manufacturer is because it is said to have dropped the idea of building its own autonomous vehicle a while ago in favor of focusing on self-driving technology and software which can be deployed in cars made by other companies.
Earlier this month, CEO Tim Cook hinted that Apple is working on autonomous systems and artificial intelligence. Cook stated that such a system could be used in various ways, including in a vehicle.
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“We do have a large project going, and are making a big investment in this. From our point of view autonomy is sort of mother of all AI projects,” Cook said then.
It could be that Cook was hinting at a self-driving bus for the company’s own use.
How Project Titan is going
In June, Cook told Bloomberg that the company is focusing on some kind of autonomous system, offering only scant details then. According to the Times, the focus of Project Titan shifted once Apple realized how massive a self-driving car project would be and witnessed the kinds of complications encountered during the execution of the project.
Last year, Apple hardware executive Bob Mansfield reportedly revived Project Titan, but this time, he kept technology and software as the epicenter, according to the Times. Apple seems to be following in the footstep of Uber and Google’s Waymo by focusing on software tech rather than a complete car.
One major area in which Apple executives could not agree on was whether the company should focus on full autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles enabling the driver to retain control of the car. The rift was mainly between Steve Zadesky, who was initially in charge of Titan, and Jonathan Ive, Apple’s chief designer, the newspaper claims. Zadesky was in favor of semi-autonomous vehicles, while Ive believed that fully driverless cars would help the company re-imagine the automobile experience, according to the Times.
Amid all the disagreement and lack of consensus, Project Titan began work on carOS, with the team still hanging in the balance on deciding between C++ or Apple’s Swift. Several aspects of the vehicle were discussed, such as using the steering wheel or gas pedal, creating silent, motorized doors, and adding augmented reality.
Apple has been testing its software in several 2015 Lexus RX450h vehicles equipped with a host of sensors and cameras. These vehicles had been spotted on the roads of California since April. However, for now, Apple has not stated whether the same technology will be used in the rumored self-driving employee bus reported on by the Times.
To make sure that the self-driving tech works perfect, the company will require a string of data on traffic, driver behavior, road safety and so on. Apple is surely aware of the power of data, and therefore, it invested $1 billion in the Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing last year.