Google buys 20,000 SUVs, Apple gets two dozen VW vans

“A few years ago, I chatted to a senior Volkswagen AG manager who’d been involved in discussions with Apple Inc. about teaming up on autonomous vehicles,” Alex Webb reports for Bloomberg. “In essence, he said, Apple had asked the German autos giant to give it a stack of vehicle and driver behavior data. In return, VW would receive the self-driving system – he called it ‘a black box’ – it could fit to its vehicles. He laughed. “No, thanks,” was the response.”

“Fast forward to the present day, and the New York Times has reported that Apple is working with a VW subsidiary to transform T6 Transporter vans into electric self-driving shuttles. It’s a huge stepdown from the ambitious plans of several years ago,” Webb reports. “Apple is adapting fewer than two dozen of the vehicles, which will be deployed for a shuttle service between office buildings at its Cupertino headquarters, Bloomberg News subsequently reported. It looks like a supplier-customer relationship, but Apple is the customer, not Volkswagen.”

“It emerged last month that Apple is now testing 55 autonomous cars in California: Lexus RX450h sports-utility vehicles leased from a unit of Hertz Global Holdings Inc. That might make it the second-biggest fleet in the state, but other major autonomous car programs have now moved beyond California. They have bigger fleets working in regions where the regulatory regime is more amenable, such as Arizona and Pittsburgh,” Webb reports. “while the world’s most valuable company adapts a few VW vans, Alphabet’s Waymo has agreed to buy 20,000 electric SUVs from Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc, adding to a fleet of minivans from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Because more is better, dontcha know?

When all is said and done, we’ll see where Apple stands. The same goes for smart glasses. Even with the Google Glass debacle, Alphabet is considered to be way out in front of Apple by the hoi polloi. Again, when all is said and done, we’ll see where Apple stands in the market segments in which they choose to compete.

Volkswagen looks to Apple for electric-car design guidance – February 16, 2018
Apple said to develop car operating system in Canada – October 25, 2016
Apple scales back ‘Project Titan,’ effort no longer includes building own car – October 17, 2016
Apple’s Bob Mansfield reboots Apple Car project, lays off several dozen employees – September 10, 2016
South Korea company’s never-before-revealed battery technology expected to be Apple Car’s ‘secret weapon’ – August 9, 2016
Apple Car: Everything we know about Apple’s mysterious ‘Project Titan’ – July 29, 2016
Apple Car: An operating system licensed to other auto-makers? – July 29, 2016
Apple hires founder of QNX with Apple Car project increasing focus on self-driving software – July 28, 2016
Apple taps Bob Mansfield to oversee Apple Car project – July 25, 2016
Beleaguered Volkswagen hires expert in self-driving cars from Apple’s ‘Project Titan’ – November 10, 2015

Gene Munster: Apple will release Apple Glasses late in 2021 – May 17, 2018
Apple patent application reveals work on eye-tracking technology for VR and AR headsets – April 27, 2018
Apple prepping Micro-LED displays for Apple Watch and Smartglasses for 2019, sources say – April 3, 2018
Apple CEO Cook on the future of fashion, shopping, and AR smartglasses – October 11, 2017
Apple’s AR smartglasses – understanding the issues – August 29, 2017
Bernstein: Apple’s ‘smartglasses’ opportunity ‘could be enormous’ – August 25, 2017
Apple working on several prototypes of AR glasses – August 4, 2017
Apple’s next big move: Augmented reality – August 3, 2017
Apple’s rumored new glasses will be an even bigger deal than the iPhone – July 28, 2017
Apple smart glasses are inevitable – July 28, 2017


  1. Of course more is better! Just think back to the latter part of the Dark Days when the common refrain from the WinTel centric guys was, “There are nearly 100 WinTel boxes sold for every Mac. By that metric clearly WinTel systems are superior to Macs!”

    Then knowledgeable Mac user’s response was, “There are more cockroaches than humans in the world. That does not make cockroaches a higher lifeform.”

    The real thing to consider is what metrics and what AI training will Alphabet get with their over 20,000 total vehicles compared to what Apple will get with their less than 100 total vehicles? We won’t know for a couple of years.

    1. iOS is not immune to the “popularity” or “abundance” metric either…

      There is a case to be made for the consumer for an “abundant” standard though. Wintel at least set up a (poor but open) standard with thousands of participants spanning hardware and software that drove down prices and fostered internal competition. Still does, though not as much as the heyday.

      But none of this is relevant to the story. If self driving vehicles are the goal, more is better. The more data, the better.

      1. More data is not always better (in fact, I’d argue that after a point more data is actually worse). The real goal must be useful information. Can Apple get virtually as much useful information out of 20,000 vehicles? That is yet to be seen.

        1. The only time data is bad is if it’s scientific garbage. If I were mapping, or re-mapping a large area, you bet I would want 20,000 vehicles. You might have justified contempt for Google, but stupid they are not.

          1. That’s all based on th idea that their adventurous goals are obtainable in the foreseeable future. I would rather see a more realistic goal attained over a mass attempt at throwing everything and the kitchen sink at that unrealistic goal simply believing that it’s achievable if only you throw more effort into it. The technological age is full of examples of that philosophy failing. I have to say that self driving mini buses on their campus is an excellent use of the technology that will work almost inevitably and reveal an aweful lot about practicalities. If Google is expecting, as so many of those with a direct interest in hyping the technology like to tell us, that self driving cars will be the norm within 5 to 10 years on all our roads then I beg to differ as the problems in operating on city streets for example is nowhere near being solved let alone the legal ramifications of doing so. Fact is that this will be a long slow development process that in the imediately future will be fully operatable only on motorways, long open country roads and specialist more controlled scenarios. And in that regard using automated runabouts is one excellent way to exploit the tech short term usefully and expand from there. Beyond that having the number of cars with self driving capability will increase while the situations where it can be exploited will move ahead much slower so winning the race to obtain all that data may not be the right race at all in the longer term. But time will tell no doubt.

        2. Apple: 55 Lexus RX450h SUV (testing) + 24 VW T6 (real world shuttle use) vehicles vs Google: 20000 Jaguar I-PACE SUV from Jaguar Land Rover (real world) + many predecessors including Toyota Prius (2009), Lexus RX450h (2012), “Firefly” reference vehicle (2015), Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan (2017).

          Considering that Apple will still be limiting the course of the VW T6 fleet to shuttle between buildings on their campus while WayMo will be selling a service to complement taxis, Ubers and Lyft vehicles, WayMo will definitely be getting much more useful real world data than Apple.

          Imagine if those same new 20k vehicles also include a subsystem that could update Waze during their trips, Google’s mapping products may leave Apple Maps further behind.

    2. Wow! 20,000 vans. Imagine how much work it will be for Google to install listening devices in all of them to “get to know you and your activities and opinions “ to better market you as thier real product!

      1. Considering that ‘tracking’ the user would most likely be delegated to the device with the App you called the vehicle with in the first place, it may take very little work. Or do you think Google is thinking of some kind of in-cabin eye tracking system to track what you are looking at during the ride?

  2. At this point Google is posed to sell more cars than tablets;) Of course, they will count the vans sitting abandoned in the storage lot as “installed base.”

    1. While Toyota/Lexus may not enjoy quite the lofty reputation that it did in the 1990s, it still makes quality vehicles. And VW? Well, it is no Toyota, at least not the last time that I looked.

      Perhaps things have changed, but VW has not historically excelled in quality metrics. But I would take VW over Jeep, anyway. Jeep – mediocre products at inflated prices.

      Anyway, I have been a Honda guy for quite a few years now (switched from Toyota). But I did pick up a well-maintained 2000 Volvo V70 wagon a few months ago, and I really like it. This is my first Volvo, and I have to admit that the Swedes made a solid vehicle, although a bit quirky in some respects.

      1. Not as tested by Top Gear recently who managed to break two Volvo SUVs (one a replacement for the other) as they put it, a Range Rover and a Maserati Levante through their paces at Beaulieu. I was a little shocked tbh considering Volvos used to, in my youth have the reputation of a tank…. And looks too mind.

      2. Many new Volvos are made in China. Before they sold it to Geely, Ford dropped some major money into Volvo- same for Jaguar and Land Rover. None of them would have survived otherwise.

        My current VW (2016) has been very reliable as was the previous (2011).

        In my experience, most cars if properly maintained will serve you well. One reason you do not see BMW owners broken down in the side of the road is that people who drop that kind of money on a car usually take care of routine maintenance. The people buying Kias and Chevys not always so much.

        The knock on Toyotas is that they are boring like a Buick and very reliable. These days they have been hit by the same ugly stick that has afflicted most Japanese cars and trucks.

        1. My Toyota Prius (2001) is still running well, only 2 major problems over it’s 17 yr lifetime so far. Fuel injection port buildup and shifting cable failure.

  3. Quatity does not equal quality — either in product or in research.
    E.g. the bad old days when Microscum’s R&D budget was more than Apple’s total income. But Apple was still the one producing products that Microscum, and others, copied.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.