Apple car might never need a driver

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Apple Car
You may someday ride in an Apple Car but you’ll never drive one. You’ll program it instead.
Photo: Torsten Dettlaff/Pexels CC

No one will ever drive an Apple car, according to leaked information. Apple is reportedly planning a vehicle that’s completely autonomous. It’ll be programmed, not driven.

That would make it less like what Tesla offers and more like what Alphabet’s Waymo is developing.

“The first Apple Cars will not be designed to have a driver,” an unnamed inside source told CNBC. “These will be autonomous, electric vehicles designed to operate without a driver and focused on the last mile.”

A truly driverless Apple car

There are two visions for self-driving vehicles. One involves cars that look much like today’s but with additional sensors and computing ability so the car can take over from the driver.

Apple is supposedly exploring the second option. This involves cars that are always the driver. Passengers tell the vehicle their destination and that’s the end of their involvement.

Current driver-assist systems, like the ones built into vehicles made by Tesla and others, take the first option because they aren‘t very good at “the last mile” the leaker mentioned. These cars can handle the relatively easy task of steering themselves on the interstate but can’t get from the offramp to the driveway. Apple developers are allegedly tackling this challenge.

Rival Waymo is going the same route. When it comes to self-driving vehicles, it seems automakers build better cars while computer companies tend to develop computers with wheels.

It’s really happening

Apple has been hard at work on a self-driving car since 2014, and there’s been a flurry of leaks about the company’s plans recently. Apple hired Porsche’s head of chassis development to work on the hardware. And Tesla’s chief of autonomous vehicle software development recently joined Apple’s secret car project, too.

Rubber could hit the road in a few years. Apple is reportedly poised to sign a $3.6 billion deal with Kia Motors to build Apple car. Deals with other automakers reportedly could follow, too.