The world’s worst-kept secret continues to be kept worse: Apple received a permit to test autonomous vehicles on public roads in the State of California. The tech behemoth has never confirmed its program to develop an autonomous vehicle … or any type of vehicle for that matter.
Apple joins 30 other companies that the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles has cleared to test self-driving cars. Others included General Motors, Google and Ford. Business Insider first reported the approval.
The company’s never-confirmed-but-often-teased vehicle program is code-named Project Titan internally. Apple’s hired several employees who held high ranking jobs at automakers or suppliers during the past three years.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has danced around the question in recent years, suggesting that the automotive business is appealing, but falling short of saying the company was building a vehicle. In fact, at last year’s Apple shareholder’s meeting he was asked about it and offered a nondenial denial.
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“Do you remember when you were a kid, and Christmas Eve, it was so exciting, you weren’t sure what was going to be downstairs,” he said. “Well, it’s going to be Christmas Eve for a while.”
The company’s only whetted the appetites of Apple aficionados who would love nothing more than to pair their iPhone with an iCar, if you will, by filing for a variety of regulatory approvals that suggest the company is involved in the construction of a car.
Last November, the company sent a letter to federal safety regulators asking for clarity on several policies involving autonomous vehicle safety.
(Daimler, Bosch partner; aim to get driverless car on the road by 2021. Click Here for the story.)
“The company is investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation,” wrote Steve Kenner, Apple’s director of product integrity.
Kenner also said in the request that Apple supports different methods of crash simulations as well as cybersecurity and safety analysis. He advocated the sharing of the results of this testing and investigation among interested parties as long as it didn’t compromise consumer privacy.
(To see more about Apple’s automotive setbacks, Click Here.)
The self-driving car platform is designed so that Apple could license it to carmakers, use it in an Apple-designed vehicle or both. Apple began to focus more on the self-driving technology last year after Bob Mansfield, a highly regarded manager who helped develop the original iPad, returned in April 2016 from a part-time role at Apple to lead the Project Titan team, according to reports.