Amazon acquires self-driving startup that employs former Apple Car workers [Updated]

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Amazon buys self-driving car startup Zoox
More than a dozen Zoox employees worked on the Apple Car project before it was scaled back.
Photo: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory/Flickr CC

Amazon is buying Zoox, a self-driving car startup that employs at least 17 people who previously worked on Apple’s Project Titan.

The Information first reported the purchase of Zoox, and Amazon confirmed it Friday in a blog post. The deal could set Amazon back upward of $1 billion.

Today in Apple history: Apple teams with Volkswagen for iBeetle car

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The first Apple car, a collaboration with VW known as the iBeetle, rolls onto the scene.
The first Apple car, a collaboration with VW known as the iBeetle, rolls onto the scene.
Photo: Volkswagen

April 22: Today in Apple history: Apple teams with VW for the iBeetle April 22, 2013: The world gets its first Apple car. Well, kind of.

In reality, the iBeetle is a collaboration with German automaker Volkswagen that offers a car “stylistically linked” to Apple. This means Apple-inspired colors, a built-in docking station for your iPhone, and a special app that lets you control the car’s features.

How Apple’s self-driving car fleet fared on California roads last year

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Here's how Apple Car might eliminate blind spots
Will an Apple Car ever be available to buy?
Photo: Aristomenis Tsirbas/Freelancer

Only 23 of Apple’s registered self-driving cars were active between December 2018 and November 2019, according to data provided to California’s Department of Motor Vehicles. In total, Apple’s fleet of modified Lexus RX450h SUVs travelled 7,544 miles during the period.

That’s down from the 79,745 miles its vehicles travelled in the previous year.

Woz: I don’t think true self-driving cars will arrive in my lifetime

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Woz: I don’t think true self-driving cars will arrive in my lifetime
Woz isn't convinced the technology will arrive any time soon.
Photo: Nichollas Harrison/Wikimedia Commons CC

Apple is working hard on a self-driving car project, but company co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak seemingly isn’t convinced that autonomous vehicles will be ruling the roads anytime soon.

At a recent auto conference, Woz pulled back his predictions about when self-driving cars will take over; saying that there are too many challenges in Level 5 autonomous vehicles.

Apple hires top Drive.ai talent as self-driving startup shuts down

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Drive.ai self-driving car
Drive.ai is dead.
Photo: Drive.ai

Self-driving car startup Drive.ai is reportedly shutting down — and Apple is scooping up the talent.

Drive.ai, which made kits that turn regular cars into self-driving cars, notified the Employment Development Department of California that it was shutting down and laying off all 90 of its employees. Apple was reportedly looking into acquiring the company earlier this month. Instead, Cupertino decided to just hire some of its key employees.

Google AI expert jumps ship for Apple

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Siri
Siri needs all the help it can get.
Photo: Apple

One of Google’s top AI experts has left the company to join Apple’s special projects group.

Ian Goodfellow, who created an AI approach called general adversarial networks (GANs), was hired by Apple as a director of machine learning, adding another prominent Google AI expert to its growing team.

Apple gives a glimpse inside its self-driving vehicle program

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Project Titan
Apple is putting tremendous effort into ensuring test autonomous vehicles are safe, safe, safe.
Photo: Idiggapple/Twitter

A whitepaper describing the elaborate safety procedures used in Apple’s automated car development program seems intended to assure government regulators and the public that the company is making every effort to prevent accidents.

As a bonus, the document gives some insight into the automated vehicle Apple is creating.

Apple’s self-driving car project isn’t quite ready for prime time

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Here's how Apple Car might eliminate blind spots
Apple Car still needs some improvement.
Photo: Aristomenis Tsirbas/Freelancer

Apple’s autonomous car project is certainly exciting for Apple fans. It’s likely to be a while longer before the company is ready to officially launch what it’s been working on, however.

That’s according to a new “Disengagement Report” which covers the period December 2017 through November 2018. It refers to instances in which self-driving vehicles being tested on California roads had to pass control back to the human driver behind the wheel.