VW MOIA ride-sharing concept car
Apple and the Volkswagen Group have reportedly forged a deal that will see VW's Transporter van, the modern version of the iconic Microbus, used by Apple for its first self-driving service.
The news was reported on Wednesday by The New York Times which cited people familiar with the project.
The deal will reportedly see examples of the current T6 Transporter van fitted with Apple's self-driving technology and used by the tech giant to shuttle employees between its two Silicon Valley campuses.
The vans will be converted to run on electric power and feature interiors designed by Apple, but there will still be an engineer behind the steering wheel to take over when needed, per the report.
Volkswagen MOIA electric ride-pooling van
The VW Group has already shown a concept of the Transporter van converted for shuttle duty. The concept (shown above) was unveiled last year by the automaker's new MOIA mobility group, though it didn't come with self-driving technology.
VW currently doesn't sell the Transporter in the United States, though it has a handful on local soil for evaluation purposes. An electric spiritual successor to the Microbus previewed by 2017's ID Buzz concept has been confirmed for 2022, though.
As for Apple's much-maligned self-driving program, The New York Times, citing the earlier source, reported that the program is behind schedule and that the employee shuttle service alone is consuming all of the attention of Apple's car team.
Apple had originally hoped to disrupt the auto industry, much like it did the phone industry with the original iPhone, by developing a fully self-driving car. Apple had even considered a potential manufacturing site in the United States but abandoned the plans after discovering how difficult and capital-intensive building cars is.
Apple then looked at partnering with an existing automaker, with BMW at the top of the list, but was turned down due to its requirement to take over control of the data and design, according to The New York Times' source.
Apple is still developing its own self-driving system though is likely behind rivals such as Waymo and General Motors which plan to start commercial self-driving services in 2018 and 2019, respectively.