After all the talk that Apple was working on a TV subsided, the "next big thing" that the Cupertino giant was reportedly working on was a plan to disrupt the automotive industry. But these lofty ambitions have given way to the more prosaic goal of developing a self-driving shuttle service to ferry employees between Apple buildings.
According to a report in the New York Times, five people familiar with Apple's car project, code-named "Titan," claim that Apple is now working on a system called PAIL, short for Palo Alto to Infinite Loop, which will be used to shuttle employees between its various offices in Silicon Valley.
The report also dishes the dirt on why Apple scaled back its ambitions from cars to shuttle buses:
But the car project ran into trouble, said the five people familiar with it, dogged by its size and by the lack of a clearly defined vision of what Apple wanted in a vehicle. Team members complained of shifting priorities and arbitrary or unrealistic deadlines.
There was disagreement about whether Apple should develop a fully autonomous vehicle or a semiautonomous car that could drive itself for stretches but allow the driver to retake control.
It is alleged that while Steve Zadesky, the Apple executive who was initially in charge of Titan, was keen to pursue the path of developing semiautonomous cars, the industrial design team, including Apple's chief designer Jonathan Ive, wanted the company to work on fully driverless cars because this would allow the company to reimagine the automobile experience, according to the five people.
When Apple executive Bob Mansfield was put in charge of the Titan project, he shelved plans to build a car, laid off some of the hardware staff, and refocused the project on the underlying self-driving technology.
This fits in with an interview that Apple CEO Tim Cook gave to Bloomberg back in June when he said that the company was working on "autonomous systems."
Has Apple's "next big thing" evaporated, or is autonomous systems a better market for Apple than trying to break into the automotive industry? We'll have to wait and see.
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