After shelving plans to develop its own self-driving car, Apple will begin shuttling workers between two of its California campuses in Volkswagen vans fitted with its autonomous technology, a report said Wednesday.
The New York Times reported that a deal inked between the two firms will see VW supply electric versions of its European-market T6 Transporter vans—direct descendants of the iconic Microbus—to Apple for testing.
VW and Apple's relationship goes a step further than the way Google's Waymo division modifies Chrysler Pacifica minivans supplied by FCA. Instead, the newspaper says that the vans will be shipped to a lab run by VW subsidiary Italdesign near Turin, Italy, to be retrofitted with Apple-designed interiors and self-driving technology.
No date has been set for when VW Transporters with Apple self-driving car tech will hit the road, but it will reportedly not commence until after the end of the year. Previously, Apple was using Lexus RX 450h hybrid crossover SUVs for its testing. Apple received a permit from California to test self-driving cars in 2017.
Apple, hardly known for collaborating with other companies, is said to have been reluctant to give up control over both its proprietary technology and the user experience inside the vehicles. It found a willing partner in VW as the automaker seeks to recover from its diesel emissions cheating scandal and catch up in the self-driving space, per the report.
As mentioned above, Apple had considered building its own car but utlimately was put off by the cost and complexity of building and developing vehicles. According to the report, Apple turned to VW after its partnership offers were turned down by BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Chinese automaker BYD, and even tiny sports car builder McLaren.