Apple signs with VW, gets Bronx cheer from NYT

Vision curtailed, aspirations narrowed, demands rebuffed, scope diminished, spurned by classier brands—all this for a self-driving shuttle that’s behind schedule and killing morale.

From Apple, Spurned by BMW and Mercedes, Signs Deal With Volkswagen for Driverless Cars, posted Wednesday by Jack Nicas on NYT.com.

Apple had already curtailed its grand vision for disrupting the automotive industry by building its own self-driving car. Now the tech giant has narrowed its auto aspirations even further.

For the past several years, Apple sought partnerships with the luxury carmakers BMW and Mercedes-Benz to develop an all-electric self-driving car, according to five people familiar with the negotiations who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly. But on-again, off-again talks with those companies have ended after each rebuffed Apple’s requirements to hand over control of the data and design, some of the people said.

Instead, Apple has signed a deal with Volkswagen to turn some of the carmaker’s new T6 Transporter vans into Apple’s self-driving shuttles for employees — a project that is behind schedule and consuming nearly all of the Apple car team’s attention, said three people familiar with the project.

Apple’s deal with Volkswagen, which hasn’t been previously reported, and the failure of its talks with other automakers reflect the continuing travails and diminished scope of the company’s four-year-old car program.

My take: Before he joined the New York Times in February, Jack Nicas covered Google for the Wall Street Journal.

9 Comments

  1. Jonathan Mackenzie said:

    Google’s self driving car will be awesome.

    All you’ll need to do is hand over all your data about where you go and when to a long list of advertisers, and (when travel time to your destination is otherwise similar) be subjected to routes picked by sponsoring partners. And you’ll receive prompts like “While we’re on the way, wouldn’t a Bud Lite from Elliot’s Grab and Go taste great? Buy an extra six-pack for Bob and you to enjoy this evening at your Wednesday Night Tostitos Challenge poker game.”

    But other than that, Google’s self driving car will be awesome.

    4
    May 23, 2018
  2. Fred Stein said:

    Ironically, we’ve been researching Autonomous Driving for an event tomorrow. This problem is a lot tougher than folks realize. Superficially a car can “see” in all directions and never falls asleep nor gets distracted, drunk, or enraged. Ah but, “seeing” is not so easy. Apparently in both the Tesla accident on 101 in Silicon Valley and the Uber accident in Arizona, the vision systems did not “see” the object involved in the crash.

    Please forgive shameless promotion: This event will be informative (and live-streamed for those not in Silicon Valley) https://vlab.org/events/fully-autonomous-vehicles/

    Note also, us human drivers cause nearly 40,000 fatalities yearly in the US.

    3
    May 23, 2018
    • Ken Cheng said:

      Exactly my thought. VW sells far more cars than MB or BMW. If Apple had made a deal with MB or BMW, you’d hear journalists mention how expensive and exclusive those vehicles were, etc., etc., etc. Can’t win for losing, or however that idiom goes.

      4
      May 23, 2018
  3. Alex Harris said:

    Does this supposed business writer have any clue about the composition of the contemporary auto industry? Yes, BMW and Mercedes are premium brands. But Volkswagen (the parent company) is the largest automaker in the world. Volkswagen’s namesake brand is the one of the largest brands in the industry and specializes in near-luxury products — which probably is a strong overlap for Apple customers. On top of that, however, Volkswagen also owns Audi and Porsche. which are perceived in the marketplace as on equal prestige footing with Mercedes and BMW. Additionally, VW owns Lamborghini, Bentley and Bugatti, which are hyper luxury/prestige brands far above BMW or Mercedes in terms of consumer prestige. Plus, VW also owns Scania and Man, which are major international commercial transportation brands (which could be ripe for early self-driving commercialization). Finally, it also owns international prestige motorcycle company Ducati, which could provide yet another avenue. Now, the deal described in the article is solely for test vehicles, and may not have any implications for any of these brands. That said, the fact that VW controls all these brands and products, makes VW an extremely desirable partner. Nicas failure to grasp the significance of VW is astounding for a business writer.

    4
    May 23, 2018
    • Ken Cheng said:

      All excellent points, maybe the writer had his Google glasses on.

      3
      May 23, 2018
    • David Drinkwater said:

      Agree. You clearly know more about CW than I do, but I did know the Porsche piece. They do have longer fingers than I realized.

      0
      May 25, 2018
  4. Gianfranco Pedron said:

    “Apple had already curtailed its grand vision for disrupting the automotive industry by building its own self-driving car.”

    I follow Apple pretty closely and I don’t recall Apple ever announcing it was looking to build its own self driving electric cars.

    “… according to five people familiar with the negotiations who asked not to be identified …”

    Not one, not two but FIVE people. Well, we all know you can’t get FIVE people to make stuff up about Apple. /s

    1
    May 24, 2018
    • David Drinkwater said:

      Yew, Apple may not have said anything about looking to build its own self driving electric cars, but “people” have said Apple is looking to build its own self driving electric cars, and when Apple doesn’t deliver “The People’s” vaporware according to “The People’s“ schedule Apple it late to the party. (And also doomed. Mustn’t forget doomed.)

      0
      May 25, 2018

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