Apple given permission to test self-driving cars in California

Potential first public look at Apple’s strategy to keep up with carmakers

Some big news in the autonomous car world has surfaced: Apple is now allowed to test its self-driving cars in the state of California. Apple has been working on its self-driving car, codenamed Project Titan, for years without officially announcing it. Apple joins several other companies that are hard at work testing out autonomous vehicle concepts, including Google, Volkswagen, Ford and Mercedes Benz; some of these companies have been developing this technology since 2014, when California’s autonomous vehicle regulations first were approved.

When Project Titan was first rumored, it was believed that Apple was going to try building its own electric car to compete with Tesla and other companies offering electric models. However, it is now believed that Apple is going to focus more on developing self-driving software to partner with existing automakers. For example, in a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Apple wrote that it was “investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.” Indeed, the California DMV records show that Apple’s three vehicles registered for the self-driving permit are 2015 Lexus RX crossovers, presumably fitted with Apple technology. Google also used Lexus cars in the early stages of their autonomous car development.

A stipulation by the State of California when awarding an autonomous vehicle permit is that companies must report disengagement rates to the DMV, which in turn makes those numbers public. Because of that risk, several high-profile companies, such as Uber, refused for many years to apply for the permit in California. Others, meanwhile, have applied for the permit, but due to a seeming fear of public failure, have logged no miles driven in autonomous cars. Apple, for their part, has only said that testing would begin “soon”, according to an internal source; the source declined to give a date.

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