Apple to design self-driving cars

The permit gives Apple the right to operate three 2015 Lexus RX450h SUVs equipped with hardware and software to be allow autonomous driving, according to Business Insider.

Late past year, Apple revealed it is investing heavily in autonomous vehicles in a letter asking the government to make it easier to develop self-driving cars.

While GM is already testing autonomous vehicles through its Cruise Automation unit in California, Arizona and MI, the new initiative will ramp up those efforts.

Apple, in another sign the tech giant is moving forward with plans to develop self-driving vehicle technology, has been granted a permit to test autonomous vehicles in California. "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", the company said in the comments.

Apple's self-driving technology is being developed in secret company offices in Sunnyvale, California, a short drive from its main Cupertino campus, Bloomberg News has reported. It seems unlikely at this point that the company will suddenly compete with auto makers with an Apple vehicle. Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo and Uber Technologies Inc.'s self-driving test cars also have people behind the wheel during tests. 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. 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.

"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 consulting firm Theodore & Associates, and a former vice president and engineer at Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment beyond a statement issued in December when the company filed paperwork with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding safety practices for self-driving cars. "At the time, it was seen as the strongest hint that Apple was still committed to self-driving technology". But it has often been a follower in markets that it eventually revolutionized.

With $246 billion in cash, Apple also could easily afford to buy technology that accelerates its development of self-driving cars. Neither Apple nor Tesla has given any inkling that they're interested in joining forces, though.

Apple has been coy about its self-driving vehicle project, known internally as Project Titan. Apple never confirmed the existence of Titan, which is now believed to be dead.

  • Carolyn Briggs