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Apple has partnered with car manufacturerVolkswagen to bring its dream of self-driving cars to life.
The joint venture will see the firm’s T6 transporter vans transformed into autonomous shuttle busses for Apple employees.
Apple will equip the vans with its self-driving tech and its staff will be able to hitch a ride around its campuses, including its ‘spaceship’ campus Apple Park in California.
Details on when the new vehicles will first hit the streets are yet to emerge.
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Apple has had little success with its attempts to conquer the automotive industry since it founded its self-driving car programme back in 2014.
The New York Times reported that luxury car brands BMW and Mercedes rejected the advances of Apple before the Cupertino company settled for a different German car manufacturer, VW.
Following these set-backs, the tech giant has been forced to narrow the scope of its programme.
Its initial goals were ambitious, as the iPhone manufacturer set out to create its own vehicle from scratch.
Apple wanted to create a revolutionary vehicle, code-named ‘Titan’, that would not only be autonomous, but would have a lush interior where its passengers would face one another.
As time passed and partnerships with industry leaders failed to come to fruition, the company was forced to curtail its aspirations.
Despite a rough transition into the field of automated vehicles, Apple has had some success.
In 2015, Apple launched project Baja, a programme where it partnered with a firm called Torc Robotics to retrofit two Lexus SUVs with sensors.
Apple now has more than 50 of these vehicles, and it uses them for data collection and testing.
In 2017, California officials authorised Apple to use three of these vehicles on public roads as part of self-driving tests.
Rival companies such as the Google-owned Waymo and Uber have had more success than Apple and appear to be far closer to producing a functional autonomous vehicle.
Its new partner, Volkswagen, may not have been the first choice for Apple but the collaboration will be sure to boost its presence in the field of self-driving cars.
IS APPLE DEVELOPING ITS OWN SELF-DRIVING CAR?
Apple officially secured a permit to test autonomous vehicles in California on April 14.
Rumours have been sweeping the web since last year that Apple was toying with the idea of developing its own self-driving car.
But Apple executives have been coy about their interest in the vehicles.
Chief Executive Tim Cook has suggested that Apple wants to move beyond integration of Apple smartphones into vehicle infotainment systems.
He has called autonomous vehicles the ‘mother of all’ artificial intelligence projects.
Apple’s secretive fleet of ‘Project Titan’ self-driving cars has almost doubled in the first few months of 2018.
It expanded its self-driving test fleet from 27 vehicles to more than 50 cars and is testing some of them in California.
There has been no public announcement as to if the company will be creating their own vehicles, but Cook did say in 2017 that Apple will be focusing on software for pre-existing vehicles.
One of Apple’s self-driving test cars, called ‘The Thing,’ has six LIDAR — or light detection and ranging — sensors situated on top to help the car ‘see’ its surroundings.
A wider roll-out has yet to be announced.
Apple has established a partnership with Volkswagen to develop self driving vans to shuttle Apple employees around its campus.
Earlier this year, Volkswagen released a concept car called the I.D Vizzion, which will be a level five autonomous vehicle.
This means it requires no human intervention and can handle all roads.
Volkswagen’s vision of the family car of the future – otherwise known as the ‘smart lounge on wheels’ – has no need for a steering wheel, driver’s seat, dash board or pedals.
The car is operated by voice and gesture control – with the passenger simply having to state where they want to go and use a hand signal to get the car to move.
And it even ‘recognises’ its owners via a facial scan, opening the door for them.
This concept is not likely to materialise for a few years.
VW is starting with the I.D Hatchback which is due to be released by around 2020, writesAutoblog.
WHAT ARE THE SIX LEVELS OF SELF-DRIVING AUTOMATION?
Level Zero – The full-time performance by the human driver of all aspects of the dynamic driving task, even when enhanced by warning or intervention systems.
Level One – A small amount of control is accomplished by the system such as adaptive braking if a car gets too close.
Level Two – The system can control the speed and direction of the car allowing the driver to take their hands off temporarily, but they have to monitor the road at all times and be ready to take over.
Level Three – The driver does not have to monitor the system at all times in some specific cases like on high ways but must be ready to resume control if the system requests.
Level Four – The system can cope will all situations automatically within defined use but it may not be able to cope will all weather or road conditions. System will rely on high definition mapping.
Level Five – Full automation. System can cope with all weather, traffic and lighting conditions. It can go anywhere, at any time in any conditions.