Tech giant scales back its automotive ambitions

Apple is reportedly working with Volkswagen to design and build a self-driving electric van to transport its employees between its Silicon Valley campuses.

According to The New York Times, the self-driving car will be based on the chassis of the Volkswagen Transporter.

Apple is working with Italdesign, a Volkswagen subsidiary, to design the vehicle. In addition to a new designed-in-Turin body, Apple will fit its own battery pack, dashboard, seats, sensor array, and computing power to the vehicle.

The newspaper understands the autonomous van will require a person sitting in the driver's seat, who will take over when necessary, and an operator in the front passenger's seat tracking the car's performance.

Although the project is scheduled to conclude at the end of 2018, it's understood the collaboration is running behind schedule.

Sources have told The New York Times Apple's first preference for an automotive partner was BMW, and there was also a year-long discussion with Mercedes-Benz. Both turned down the opportunity to work with Apple due to conflicts over ownership of data and the user experience.

Apple also reportedly met with Nissan, BYD, and McLaren, but these talks reached a similar impasse. Volkswagen reportedly jumped at the chance to work with Apple not only because of the Dieselgate scandal, but its self-driving technology program also lags behind many of its competitors.

Apple began its electric self-driving car program in 2014 under the title Project Titan, and at one stage envisioned a segment-busting vehicle with groundbreaking design, all engineered and built in-house.

As problems mounted, and it became clear designing and manufacturing a vehicle was a far more complex task than it had imagined, the project has been successively scaled back in scope.

It's not known if Volkswagen and Apple will work together after the autonomous employee shuttle project is completed.