The iPhone of Cars? Apple Enters Self-driving Car Race


Apple may start testing its much rumoured self-driving auto soon, as the company recently got a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to test autonomous driving tech.

On Friday, the California Department of Motor Vehicles provided tantalizing confirmation that not only is Apple working on automotive technology, it also has plans for autonomous vehicles.

The permit covers three vehicles, all 2015 Lexus RX 450h hybrid SUVs, and six individual drivers. Under California law, self-driving cars that are being tested must have a person in them who can take over if anything goes wrong.

Apple confirmed its arrival in the market, but wouldn't discuss its intentions.

Late a year ago, Apple submitted a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in which it said 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".

Apple issued the letter because it is "investing heavily in machine learning and autonomous systems", an Apple spokesman said in an email to AFP at the time.

Most major auto manufacturers and many technology groups are now developing autonomous vehicles, considered to be the future of the automobile, along with electric power, with first production models promised for around 2020. A company source told Bloomberg that autonomous vehicle testing would begin "soon", but declined to specify any further. The dry spell has raised doubts as to whether Apple lost some of its trend-setting magic with the death of co-founder Steve Jobs in 2011.

Apple has obtained a permit to test self-driving vehicles, putting the iPhone maker in competition with Google and others.

The same permit granted to Apple was also granted to 29 other companies that include Mercedes, Volkswagen, BMW, Bosch, Nissan, Honda and Ford among others. Last year Waymo - a company spun out of Google's self-driving programme - clocked up 635,868 miles in California. He expects the firm is creating a safe and effective autonomous-driving system based on computer vision, laser-based navigation and mapping, while also building an in-car environment for passengers that leverages Apple's dominant position in entertainment and workspace technology. At the moment, it appears that Apple is more focused on developing the software for the self-driving cars, than the actual vehicles themselves. There has been recurring speculation that Apple might eventually acquire Tesla, which has a market value of about $50 billion. Apple's Project Titan, at one point was believed to have over 1000 employees that were working on it.