Apple may be one step closer to marketing an autonomous vehicle, as the company has reportedly been granted approval by California to test its technology on public roads.
As with other such permits (29 in California alone), the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) regulations require the test vehicles to have to have somebody behind the wheel to monitor the performance and take over the driving if need be.
According to California’s DMV site, Apple will be using Lexus RX 450h crossover vehicles, with six drivers allowed to monitor the tests.
Though it never made a formal announcement about developing its own self driving car, as Google did, Apple began looking at autonomous driving possibilities a couple years back — a decision that came to light when the company moved senior VP of Technology Bob Mansfield to a position developing future projects, and then took on staff from the automotive industry (including Volkswagen engineer Megan McClain and Tesla’s Jamie Carlson). The company stated it had no plans to make an autonomous vehicle but rather develop the technology and systems to make one work.
An Apple statement at the time said the company saw “many potential applications for these technologies, including the future of transportation, so we want to work with NHTSA to help define the best practices for the industry.”
The company continues to maintain that it is hoping to set up systems to facilitate autonomous driving, and then work with various manufacturers, similar to the way Blackberry’s QNX works with several manufacturers on multimedia systems. Apple apparently is still aiming at a 2019 deadline for its self-driving car program (whether that’s its own or with a manufacturer).
Rumours concerning Apple’s autonomous car started to gain traction with reports the company was setting up separate headquarters for the division near Apple Campus (so called because it resembles a university campus) in Cupertino, California.
Bloomberg News is pegging the location in Sunnyvale (about 5 km north of Cupertino, at the south tip of San Francisco Bay), and is also claiming that Apple is working on a car operating system in Canada, though it didn’t divulge a location.