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

by Lawrence Cooper April 16, 2017, 1:05

Apple is now among the thirty or so companies that have a permit to test self-driving cars in the State of California. The list includes VW, Mercedes, Google, Bosch, Tesla, BMW, GM, Ford, Baidu, Honda, Subaru and Faraday. Forgive us for burying the lede bit with a wonderful old time Steve Jobs reference, but regardless, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has granted the company permission to test self-driving vehicles on public roads.

Long suspected of working on a self-driving vehicle project, Apple has never openly and directly discussed its interest in cars.

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

"This does confirm what's always been rumored: that Apple is at least toying with the idea of getting into the autonomous game in some capacity", said Chris Theodore, President of consultancy Theodore & Associates, and a former Vice President at Ford Motor Company and Chrysler.

"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", Kenner wrote.

The California-based tech giant is expected to focus on software systems, letting partners manufacture vehicles, but would understandably want to be able to test its navigation technology in cars. This confirms existing speculation that Apple Inc is working on an autonomous vehicle technology.

Among the stipulations for approval is the requirement to regularly report back statistics on the performance of the technology - including how often humans have to intervene when the computer gets it wrong. Most other companies holding the testing permit are technology start-ups. "The permit covers three vehicles, all 2015 Lexus RX450h, and six drivers".

The permit does not necessarily mean Apple is building a auto.

With $246 billion in cash, Apple also could easily afford to buy technology that accelerates its development of self-driving cars. Did the permit issued by the DMV answer the question?

Actually, the question on whether Apple is investing in autonomous auto has been around since November past year. Apple had not openly announced that it was working on an electric vehicle.

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