Apple to test self-driving Palo Alto-Cupertino employee shuttle

It’s no secret Apple wants to build self-driving car technology. Now it appears the company will begin testing this technology in the open in the South Bay with its employee shuttle buses.

The shuttle, which is not operational yet, will be the latest move in Apple’s development of autonomous car technology, according to a report from the New York Times on Tuesday.

In April, a white Lexus equipped with Apple’s self-driving car technology was seen leaving an Apple facility and driving on open roads. Like the Lexus, the bus itself will likely be from a car manufacturer. After two years of running a massive self-driving car experiment called “Project Titan,” Apple gave up on the prospect of building a car from scratch and scaled back the project.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke out about his company’s self-driving car efforts in a Bloomberg interview in June, saying “it’s a core technology that we view as very important.”

The shuttle will reportedly ferry employees from Apple facilities in Palo Alto to its old headquarters in Infinite Loop in Cupertino. It is unclear if the shuttle, nicknamed PAIL (Palo Alto to Infinite Loop), will stop at Apple’s new campus, which sits a few miles north of Infinite Loop.

More than 5,000 Apple employees take company buses to commute from home to work and between facilities. In 2015, Apple gave more than 150 shuttle bus drivers a 25 percent increase in hourly wages and improved work conditions.

Beyond the shuttle, Apple is still trying to reinvent the self-driving wheel — literally. A team within Project Titan investigated if spherical, globe-like wheels is viable so it could give the car better lateral movement, according to the Times report.

But the spherical wheel quickly ran into trouble, hampered by the size of the car and by the lack of an unified vision from the higher-ups at Apple, according to the report.

Photo: Apple CEO Tim Cook watches as members of the media check out the new MacBook Pro at a press event at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino on Oct. 27, 2016. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)

 

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