According to the New York Times' report, Apple had been in talks with BMW and Mercedes-Benz for a number of years to develop an electric self-driving car. Neither automaker was able to reach an agreement with Apple, purportedly because Apple demanded that it keep all data and be in charge of design. It would seem though that Apple found a taker in the form of Volkswagen, a company desperate to shed itself of the stink of its diesel cheating past.
According to the NY Times report, Apple and Volkswagen's self-driving car will be based on the, aka VW's supercool van that we don't get in the US. The vehicles will enter service as shuttles for Apple employees, something which many large tech companies have and which inevitably are responsible for a lot of expense in the form of fuel, drivers and maintenance. This autonomous electric vehicle would solve most of that.
If this whole thing seems decidedly less grand in scale than previous reports of Apple's auto program have led you to believe, that's because it is. As recently as a couple of years ago, Apple's self-driving car team had around 1,000 members, but hundreds of people have bailed on the project as a result of its many pivots, fits and starts.
While the announcement of a partnership with a behemoth like Volkswagen means that there is some life in the program, Apple's plans beyond the shuttle vans are not totally clear. Ideally, we'd like to see the tech flow more towards VW to help give it a leg up in autonomous car development, or at least the folks in Wolfsburg can get Jony Ive to deuglify the planned .
Neither Apple nor Volkswagen could be immediately reached for comment on this matter.