Apple’s first real-world use of some of the autonomous driving technology it’s working on could be a self-driving shuttle, according to a new report from The New York Times. The Times’ detailed progress (and some missteps) in Apple’s self-driving car ambitions, and one of those which still seems on track is a plan to create an autonomous shuttle to ferry employees from one part of its sprawling campus to another.
The report says Apple will use an existing commercial vehicle, equipped with autonomous tech it develops, to both offer service to employees and test its self-driving chops. This is not unlike what others in the autonomous vehicle space have done, including Waymo, and recently Cruise, which is offering its employees an autonomous on-demand ride hailing service that covers all of San Francisco.
Apple’s shuttle isn’t running just yet, according to this new report, but remains a plan the company intends to put in place. Apple’s new ‘spaceship’ campus in Cupertino is set to open soon, but it will still have offices peppered throughout the area and round-tripping employees who have meetings and commitments at various locations remains an actual business need, too.
Other companies are targeting exactly this kind of inter- and intra-campus fleet service as the low-hanging fruit of autonomy, and as a way to test technology and gather data in preparation for more ambitious and wide scale public service launches. Startup May Mobility, which I profiled just this week and which graduated from the most recent Y Combinator accelerator class, is specifically working on this, for example, because it’s a far more technically achievable goal in the near term.