Apple Computer’s Protect Titan is probably the worst kept secret in Silicon Valley. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the computer maker currently has fifty-five self-driving vehicles and eighty-three drivers that are permitted to test on the state’s roads. That is up from forty-five vehicles in January. While Apple has not yet applied for a separate driverless testing permit that would allow for testing without a person in the car, the big question is what the company is planning. Rumors abound of course, with everything from an autonomous “Apple Car” to their intent to just build and perfect autonomous hardware/software so it can be licensed to other manufacturers. Just how serious is Apple’s intentions?
The iPhone maker has recently shed light on that question with their recent announcement that the company will be partnering with Volkswagen. After Being initially rebuffed by both BMW and Mercedes-Benz, Apple with work to turn some of Volkswagen’s T6 Transporter vans into self-driving shuttles for Apple employees.
This represents a curtailing of what was once Apple’s “Grand Vision” of actually building its own autonomous vehicles. This would dovetail nicely with the German automaker’s expansion into the electric vehicle market – and it’s plans for an electric autonomous version of its T6 Transporter van that is rumored to hit the market in about 2022.
Despite Apple’s cache as an upscale, technology-laden brand, will the public embrace it? According to a recent American Automobile Association (AAA) study about the public’s acceptance of autonomous vehicles after the well-publicized accident with a self-driving Uber vehicle in Arizona and a semi-autonomous Tesla Model X hitting a concrete divider in California, 73 percent of those surveyed said they would be too afraid to ride in a full autonomous vehicle. This is up some ten percent over the last survey that the AAA did the year before. The same goes for pedestrians that interact with autonomous vehicles either. According to the survey, 63 percent said that they would feel less safe as a pedestrian or cyclist on the road together with self-driving cars.
While tech-savvy millennials were about split down the middle in whether they would be too afraid to ride in a fully autonomous car, the number jumped to 64 percent in the current survey. In previous surveys, millennials were seen as being more accepting of the new transportation technology.