Apple has reportedly signed a deal with Volkswagen to turn some of the automaker's T6 Transporter vans into self-driving vehicles, according to a Wednesday report from the New York Times.
It's no secret that Apple has been slow to the self-driving market, struggling to find a partner to go along with its vision, the report noted. Now that it has, though, it's taking a different approach to self-driving vehicles than most of its competitors.
According to the report, which cites "people familiar with the project," Apple is working to turn the Volkswagen vans into self-driving shuttles for employees. Apple will replace the dashboard and seats, the report said—likely to better fit its aesthetic—and will have a human driver at the wheel ready to take over if needed.
SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of autonomous vehicles (Tech Pro Research)
In terms of operations, the shuttles will move employees between two of Apple's campuses in Silicon Valley, the report noted. While the move to create employee shuttles is unexpected, one has to wonder if other companies will follow suit.
Companies like Local Motors have been working on driverless shuttles for years, partnering with IBM Watson on their Olli vehicle back in 2016. The idea seems well suited for public transport and smart city integrations, but it could also be very useful for a wide variety of organizations.
The University of Michigan, for example, announced the launch of a free driverless shuttle service back in summer 2017. Using two 15-passenger Navya Arma vehicles, the university will transport students between two campuses a couple miles away from each other, collecting data in the process.
Using the same Navya Arma vehicle, the city of Las Vegas has its own driverless shuttles around its downtown area as well.
For large businesses, these kinds of self-driving shuttles could be seen as a work perk in the future, allowing commuters—especially in congested cities—to make it to work efficiently without relying on public transportation. For firms with multiple offices, a shuttle could even be dispatched to an airport to pick up colleagues on a business trip and get them back to the office, avoiding the cost of a taxi or Uber ride.
The big takeaways for tech leaders:
- Apple is reportedly working with Volkswagen on a self-driving van that will be used as an employee shuttle.
- Self-driving shuttles are in use at the University of Michigan and in the city of Las Vegas, and could become a useful tool for business travelers and commuters at large firms.
- The new commute: How driverless cars, hyperloop, and drones will change our travel plans (TechRepublic cover story) | download the PDF version
- The obstacles to autonomous vehicles: Liability, societal acceptance, and disaster stories (ZDNet)
- Machine learning: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
- Apple and Volkswagen joining forces to make autonomous shuttles, report claims (CNET)
- Apple grows its self-driving car fleet, but what exactly is it doing? (CNET)
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.