Apple granted self-driving test permit Featured

The permit covers the registration of three Lexus RX450h SUVs, and allows six drivers to operate them.

On the list of companies receiving permits to test self-driving vehicles on California roads, Apple's name popped up for the first time at the very end of the list of 29 other firms.

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

Apple's foray into the technology, reportedly nicknamed Project Titan, is rumored to have been on the ropes, with many insiders in Silicon Valley speculating the company is more interested in developing software that can be used in association with already established carmakers rather than developing the cars itself.

Apple has officially joined the race to design self-driving cars.

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.

Apple has not commented - other than to point to its letter late past year expressing an interest in the technology.

Despite the permit, it's still unclear what specific aspect Apple is working on.

The permit makes it clear that Apple is at least serious about developing self-driving vehicle technology and software, but not necessarily fully committed to making their own auto just yet.

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. Public records also showed that the company had asked officials in the Contra Costa Transportation Authority about their self-driving-car testing site at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station.

Companies that have been issued permits also include Alphabet Inc's Google unit, Ford Motor Co, Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG, Tesla Motors Inc and General Motors Co.

Although it has never openly acknowledged it is looking into building an electric vehicle, Apple has recruited dozens of auto experts in recent years, and the permit pulls the curtain back a bit on any possible plan.

Apple executives have been coy about their interest in cars. The experts say it is the clearest sign to date of progress in the corporation's multiyear efforts to develop this technology of the future.

  • Arturo Norris