Apple Signs Deal With Volkswagen To Develop Self-Driving Vehicles

After being rejected by BMW and Mercedes, technology giant Apple Inc. has entered into a deal with German automaker Volkswagen to develop fully autonomous self-driving vehicles.

Apple announced Friday that it has signed a deal with Volkswagen to turn some of the carmaker’s new T6 Transporter vans into Apple self-driving shuttles for employees. Apple’s deal with Volkswagen, which comes after failed talks with several other automakers such as BMW and Mercedes reflects the continuing problems experienced by the company’s self-driving car program.

Apple is racing against tech rival Google in the self-driving car space. Waymo, the self-driving business spun out of Google, as well as the renewed focus of BlackBerry on autonomous vehicles, has left Apple playing catch-up. Competing tech companies and carmakers have been testing autonomous vehicles on public roads for several years now. Some of the programs have hit hurdles — Uber has said it is shutting down its self-driving operations in Arizona and laying off about 300 employees — but many have already gathered extensive data on autonomous driving patterns to improve their technology.

Apple began its car project — known internally as Titan and T172 — in 2014. At the time, Apple planned to build a single vehicle that would revolutionize the global car industry, in what would be the automotive version of the popular iPhone. The company set to work on an electric driverless car with a lush interior reminiscent of a lounge or living room.

As recently as 2016, Apple planned to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build research and development labs around its Cupertino, California campus, including a machine shop and labs for electric car batteries. Yet members of the car project soon found that even designing and building fundamental parts of a new car was not simple, and Apple had trouble partnering with a vehicle manufacturer. The self-driving car project has since morphed into the present employee shuttle experiment.