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Apple to Launch Autonomous Shuttle Bus after Self-Driving Scale-down

Apple is reportedly working on a self-driving shuttle bus to run between its Cupertino headquarters and the nearby town of Palo Alto.

According to the New York Times, the iPhone maker is going to test its autonomous driving software on a vehicle manufactured by a commercial carmaker; the bus’s official moniker will reportedly be PAIL —as in “Palo Alto to Infinite Loop” (the HQ’s address)— and it will take Apple employees back and forth between the two locales.

The company has also recently been granted a permit from California authorities to trial three Lexus fitted with its self-driving tech on the state’s roads.

One of Apple’s self-driving Lexus (via)

The New York Times’s piece offers new insights into what Apple’s self-driving car programme —dubbed Project Titan— could have been had things evolved differently. Right now, the company is focusing on creating software to power “autonomous systems”, conceived as bolt-on features for third-party vehicles.

But when Project Titan was launched in 2014, Apple’s idea had in fact been to build the whole driverless shebang, car included.

The company’s car unit had been staffed with experienced engineers and car designers, who tried to put together a vehicle able to compound novel self-driving technology with Apple’s harmonious style. The effort included, for instance, tweaking LIDAR sensors—the unmistakable plant pot-shaped devices gyrating on a driverless car’s roof—to make them less conspicuous; the task force even pondered the possibility of reinventing the wheel, researching whether ball-shaped tyres could make sideways movements easier.

The project eventually ground to a halt amid internecine clashes over disparate issues— from the type of coding language that should be used to develop the car’s operative system, to whether Apple’s cars should be fully autonomous or only partially so.

We all know how it ended: Apple has given up its car-making ambitions, although it carries on developing its self-driving software, soon to debut on PAIL. In this regard, Apple is similar to some of its A-list rivals— from Alphabet’s Waymo, to Uber, to Intel— all of which are determined to take care of software, while leaving the hardware part to incumbent car manufacturers.

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