Apple Car Makes Its Debut, But Don’t Expect To See Too Many On The Road

The "Apple car" project has turned into outfitting a Volkswagen van with self-driving capabilities to be used as a company employee shuttle.

The Apple car is not what everyone was expecting.
Grzegorz Czapski / Shutterstock

The "Apple car" project has turned into outfitting a Volkswagen van with self-driving capabilities to be used as a company employee shuttle.

Apple didn’t want to be left in the dust when it came to self-driving cars. They’ve been working on their own version of a self-driving car under the name Project Titan. The initial concept for the car was a 100 percent electric vehicle with superior infotainment and amenities. And the basic premise was that it would be “the automotive version of the iPhone.”

That all sounds great, but it turns out that it’s not as easy to build such an amazing car as Apple may have imagined at the outset. According to Mac World, the current vision for the car is less lavish and more down-to-earth. Instead of building a car from scratch, Apple has partnered up with Volkswagen. And instead of building a car at all, Apple has integrated Volkswagen’s T6 California vans with “computers, sensors and a large electric car battery.” And it’s not going to be a car for the regular consumer, either. The self-driving T6 California vans are going to be used as a shuttle for Apple employees.

The partnership with Volkswagen comes after attempted partnerships with other more higher-end vehicle manufacturers like BMW and Mercedes-Benz, detailed the New York Times. But BMW and Mercedes-Benz declined to forge a partnership when Apple required the companies to “hand over control of the data and design.” Considering that car manufacturers have worked on their proprietary data and design for decades, it’s not surprising that they declined to hand over control to a new company.

The self-driving car project has consumed over four years of work, and supposedly had over 1,000 team members working on it at one point. Although the idea was for Apple to be a leader in the self-driving sector, it appears that they are lagging way behind other companies like Google’s Waymo and Uber.

A version of the T6 van was supposed to be ready by 2018, but, apparently, it will not be completed in time. And it won’t be completely self-driving, either, as a human driver will be stationed behind the wheel as a back-up in case there’s a hiccup in the self-driving system.

Although Apple fans may have been waiting for the day when they could go buy an Apple car to match their Apple phone and computer, some doubt that it may ever happen. The biggest reason is that it’s incredibly difficult to engineer a car, and it’s a much different business than engineering a new electronic device.