The so-called “Apple Car” may never come to be, thanks in large part to a lack of agreement by Apple leadership as to what such a vehicle should do, reports the New York Times’ Daisuke Wakabayashi.
Apple has all but abandoned its original plans for building a vehicle in its own factories, and will instead focus its energies on building self-driving systems for other vehicles, according to the report. In the meantime, the company is focusing on a self-driving campus shuttle, codenamed PAIL — short for “Palo Alto to Infinite Loop.” Infinite Loop is the street on which Apple’s main campus is located and Palo Alto is a city nearby.
Apple employees working on its car effort have experimented with everything from augmented reality dashboards to a whole new “CarOS” operating system to replacing the car’s steering wheel with a spinning sphere that would offer a wider range of movement, according to The Times report. Apple also looked at ways to hide a self-driving car’s lidar array, which is a crucial but often unsightly component that gives such vehicles information about the environment around them.
However, Apple executives apparently couldn’t agree on a direction for the car. Apple design guru Jony Ive wanted to focus on a fully self-driving vehicle like those from Google spinoff Waymo. Original project head Steve Zadesky wanted Apple’s car to only be semi-autonomous, operating like Tesla’s vehicles when they are under the control of the company’s Autopilot function.
Now, under current head Bob Mansfield, Apple is rededicating itself to building the underlying systems for self-driving cars — even if that means building those systems into vehicles from non-Apple manufacturers. To that end, Apple has recently obtained a self-driving car testing permit from California, with CEO Tim Cook publicly stating that the company is working on autonomous systems.
Apple declined to comment. You can read the full New York Times report here.