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Apple to install self-driving tech inside shuttles for its workers

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Apple’s ambition to build a driverless car has apparently been parked — at least for now — but the company is known to be developing the autonomous technology that would power such a vehicle.

To test it out, the tech giant is planning to install the equipment in self-driving shuttles that will ferry its Cupertino, California-based workers “from one building to another,” according to a New York Times report on Tuesday, August 22.

The driverless shuttles will tootle between Apple Park, the company’s vast “spaceship” campus that opened just recently, and 1 Infinite Loop, Apple’s longstanding head office situated about a mile down the road.

The Times’ unnamed sources said the autonomous shuttle service is likely to go with the name “PAIL,” which stands for Palo Alto to Infinite Loop. That certainly rolls off the tongue more easily than ILPA, though it’s also a gift for rhyme-loving headline writers should the shuttle ever fail in any way.

It’s not known when PAIL will hit the road, though with the new campus gradually filling up with workers, and Apple’s driverless technology research presumably making progress, it might not be too long before the service cranks into action.

PAIL won’t be the first autonomous shuttle to take people between points A and B, with companies like Oxbotica, Navya, and EasyMile testing out similar services in London, Las Vegas, and Paris, respectively.

Apple car?

While there was plenty of talk in the last couple of years about Apple building its own autonomous car as part of Project Titan, the company’s secretive nature meant no one was entirely sure what was happening in the workshop.

Apple’s recruitment of auto engineers, the registering of particular car-related domains, and the application for a permit to test self-driving cars were at least three clues pointing to a serious interest in vehicle development, but in September 2016 the company appeared to scale back its efforts following reports that it had let a number of the related engineers go.

In June of this year, CEO Tim Cook finally went public, revealing in an interview with Bloomberg that Apple was currently focusing on “autonomous systems” for vehicles, describing it as “the mother of all AI projects.” The suggestion was that the company has, for the time being at least, given up on the idea of designing its own autonomous car, choosing instead to develop technology that it can sell to others.

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