Apple is granted Calif. permit to test autonomous vehicles

UPDATED: 4/14/17 4:07 pm ET – adds details

SAN FRANCISCO — 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 state’s Department of Motor Vehicles on Friday added the tech giantto the list of companies allowed to test self-driving cars on public roads.  

Apple has been notoriously secretive about its plans for autonomous vehicles. In November, the company submitted a public comment to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on the agency’s self-driving vehicle policy, stating it was “investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation.”

An Apple spokesman referred to the company’s statement on the NHTSA guidelines when asked for comment on the California permit.

The tech company also lists Robert Bosch as one of its suppliers, however would not give details on the nature of their relationship.

The secured permit adds Apple to a long list of 29 automakers, suppliers and tech companies, including fellow Silicon Valley titan Google, allowed to test autonomous vehicles in the state. 

Apple will soon begin testing self-driving car software with existing cars, Bloomberg reported, attributing the information to a person familiar with the matter. Apple started developing a self-driving car a few years ago before it pulled back and focused on first developing underlying autonomous technology last year.

A quarter of all miles driven in the U.S. may happen in shared, self-driving electric cars by the end of the next decade, Boston Consulting Group said this month.

Subject to standard regulations for testing autonomous technology on public roads, the Apple cars will have a person behind the wheel to monitor the testing, the person told Bloomberg. The California permit covers three 2015 Lexus RX540h SUVs, and six drivers, the DMV said.

Apple’s self-driving technology is being developed in secret company offices in Sunnyvale, Calif., a short drive from its main Cupertino campus, Bloomberg News has reported. The company also has a team in Canada working on a car operating system that would power the platform, people familiar with the matter have said.

The self-driving car platform is designed so that Apple could choose to open it up to existing carmakers or eventually port it to an Apple-designed vehicle. Apple began to focus more on the self-driving technology last year after re-hiring former hardware executive Bob Mansfield to lead the project. Apple aims to decide on the final direction of the platform by fall of this year, Bloomberg News has reported.

Bloomberg contributed to this report


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