Will the long-anticipated vehicle ever hit the roads?

Along with our yet to appear jetpacks, citizens of the 21st century were supposed to zip around the highways in self-driving cars. The vehicles were going to make the daily commute safer while making the family vacation far more fun. And while there are a relative handful of vehicles on the road that can assist the driver, the reality we were hoping for just isn’t there yet.

That isn’t because the tech giants aren’t trying, though. The obstacles in their path are far more regulatory than physical, and in most cases, sinking even more money into the project is hard to do. Apple has had its hat in the self-driving ring for quite some time, and has restructured the Apple Car project so many times that it’s hard to keep track of the company’s goals.

Hype Is Fading For Apple’s Self-Driving Car

When is a car not a car? When it might be some kind of shuttle bus… eventually.

Show me the money

When Apple dove headfirst into the project – like so many others – they learned faster than most that the real money to be made could be in the software that powers the innovation. After serious investments in technology and manpower, they turned the focus to what they do best and planned to capitalize on driving (pun intended) the other guys’ vehicles. Later though, the project resurfaced as once again an in-house autonomous vehicle, rather than just the software behind it.

Behold, the, er, iBus?

Now, Apple’s self-driving car might be road-worthy, but the project has once again shifted (pun once again intended). Rather than a soon-to-be released commercial passenger vehicle, the company is using its self-driving tech in the form of an employee shuttle bus on their property. While critics might be turning up their nose at the deflated function of the project, you first must envision the scope of the mileage this vehicle will make on a campus the size of Apple headquarters. Also, what better way to get a lot of test hours behind the vehicle than to improve employee productivity with a free shuttle bus?

So far, the promised age of self-driving cars still seems pretty far off. Apple Car might not be coming soon to a dealership near you, but at least the project isn’t being wasted on a closed test track.