Published: Sun, April 16, 2017
Technology | By Timothy Carter

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

Apple has reportedly a thousand workers assigned to the Project Titan.

Companies that wish to test vehicles must provide evidence that they can train qualified employee drivers, can insure their cars and will be liable for any damage incurred during tests. Those that do own testing permits are required to submit regular reports to the California DMV, so more will be known about Apple's specific autonomous exploits when the company submits its first report.

The autonomous-vehicle industry has also been beset by a spate of lawsuits, as companies attempt to protect their trade secrets and prevent their engineers from taking their know-how on the open market where millions of dollars are available.

Neil Cybart, an independent analyst who writes about Apple at the Web site Above Avalon, said the company appeared to have moved away from plans to build and sell cars like Tesla Motors Inc does. Companies interested in testing their self-driving vehicles in California must first apply to the DMV before they are allowed on the roads.

The permit allows Apple to begin testing up to three 2015 Lexus SUVs similar to the type that Google uses for its autonomous cars. The list includes major automakers, including Ford, General Motors, BMW, Volkswagen and Tesla, as well as one of its biggest rivals in technology, Google, whose testing of self-driving cars has been spun off into an affiliate called Waymo.

The iPhone maker has largely been mum on the development of its driverless auto and never officially acknowledged that it has plans to enter the self-driving market. Apple had not openly announced that it was working on an electric auto. A representative/spokesperson from the company declined to comment on the filing, pointing to a press release that the corporation submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) late a year ago.

At that point, Apple said it had provided comments to the NHTSA "because Apple is investing heavily in machine learning and autonomous systems".

Electric-car manufacturer Tesla started test-driving automated cars in California late past year. The company's Chief Executive Tim Cook has noted that Apple needs to incorporate its smartphones into vehicle infotainment systems.

Apple is now among the thirty or so companies that have a permit to test self-driving cars in the State of California.

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