The New York Times reported this evening that Apple entered into a partnership with Volkswagen Group to pair a number of electric T6 Transporter vans with Apple’s proprietary autonomous vehicle software. The vans will reportedly be used to shuttle employees around Apple’s company campus, and it’s not clear whether the deal will extend from there.
The Times says that this deal only comes after Apple tried to find a partner in BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The company has shed hundreds of employees on the project, in a department that once boasted about 1,000 workers.
According to the Times‘ sources—”five people familiar with the negotiations who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly”—BMW and Mercedes-Benz rejected a partnership with Apple due to requirements from the Cupertino-based firm to turn over all data and some design aspects of the car.
Apple reportedly gave up trying to build its own car years ago and settled on building self-driving software that could potentially be licensed out to more experienced automakers.
Three sources told the Times that the current deal to build shuttle buses with VW is “behind schedule and consuming nearly all of the Apple car team’s attention.”
About one year ago, Apple applied to the California DMV for a license to test autonomous vehicles on state roads. The request was granted for “three 2015 Lexus RX540h SUVs and six drivers.” Last June, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Bloomberg that Apple was “focusing on autonomous systems,” suggesting the company had decided to forego building an actual vehicle and would settle with creating the software.