After abandoning plans of working on its own self-driving cars, Apple is now working on a self-driving shuttle service that will be used to transport its employees from one building to another. Dubbed “PAIL” for “Palo Alto to Infinite Loop,” the autonomous shuttle service will be used by Apple to transport its employees between its various offices in Silicon Valley.
Apple will only be developing the autonomous driving system being used in the car, with the company using a commercial vehicle from an automaker for testing purposes.
The report from New York Times features input from five people who are familiar with Apple’s Project Titan and the missteps the company took which eventually led to it scaling back its operations. It details that Apple wanted to do-it-all initially with Project Titan and hired many experts to achieve this. Many engineers working on Project Titan were looking at improving various aspects of a vehicle including the possibility of using spherical wheels to allow for better lateral movements, redesigned car interior which was devoid of steering wheels and gas pedals, and more.
However, the project ran into trouble due to a lack of a clear vision from Apple’s part. The constantly shifting priorities and unrealistic deadlines did not help things either. There were also intense debates inside the company on whether they should develop a fully autonomous vehicle or a semi autonomous vehicle. While Steve Zadesky, who was initially in charge of Project Titan at Apple, wanted to build a semi-autonomous vehicle, Jony Ive wanted to pursue a fully autonomous vehicle as it would allow the company to reimagine the vehicle and the experience it offers.
Finally, last year, Apple started reining in on the project after it realized that it was going nowhere. The company also put Bob Mansfield in charge of Project Titan who refocused the project on developing a self-driving technology instead of an autonomous vehicle. Apple has again started expanding the Project Titan team as well, but this time around, it is hiring people who are experts in the field of autonomous systems. Under Mansfield, the Project Titan team is more focused with a clear vision which has led to their morale being boosted.
[Via NY Times]