News Worms
News Worms

The iPhone of cars? Apple enters self-driving car race

In the first official confirmation of Apple's automotive ambitions, the secretive Cupertino company on Friday received a permit to test self-driving vehicles on California roads.

Apple - which reportedly put its plans to develop a self-driving auto of its own on the back burner previous year - has obtained a permit to test its auto software on three 2015 Lexus RX540h vehicles with six different drivers, the DMV said Friday in an e-mailed statement.

According to the California DMV, Apple has three vehicles registered under the autonomous driving permit, all of which are 2015 Lexus RX crossovers. California law requires people to be in a self-driving vehicle who can take control if something goes wrong.

Apple confirmed its arrival in the self-driving vehicle market, but wouldn't discuss it.

Apple declined to comment on the California permit or on its broader automotive plans, instead referring to a statement released in December past year, when it submitted comments about autonomous vehicle technology to the US National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

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. A company source told Bloomberg that autonomous vehicle testing would begin "soon", but declined to specify any further. That comment came after Apple informed federal regulators of its interest in self-driving cars in a letter from Steve Kenner, a former Ford Motor executive who is now the company's director of product integrity. And Apple has been searching for its next act for a while, one that will take it beyond its mainstay phones, tablets and personal computers. Apple joins a list of twenty-nine other companies, such as Google, NVIDIA and Tesla, that have been granted testing permits.

In another sign of the investment in self-driving cars, GM said this week it will add more than 1,100 jobs in California over five years at its Cruise Automation unit to boost its self-driving efforts.

That means Apple has a long way to catch up in self-driving technology. It wasn't the first to introduce a digital music player, cellphone, or tablet before its iPod, iPhone and iPad came out. Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo and Uber Technologies Inc.'s self-driving test cars also have people behind the wheel during tests. The company long has been rumored to be working on a mysterious "Project Titan" connected to vehicles, but never has confirmed it.


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