Apple gets go-ahead to test self-driving cars in California

Tech giant to trial autonomous vehicles as driverless transportation race heats up

Apple’s automotive research project has been under way for more than two years, but it is unclear how soon any product will emerge

Apple’s automotive research project has been under way for more than two years, but it is unclear how soon any product will emerge

 

Apple has been granted a licence to test autonomous vehicles in California, marking the public launch of its race with Uber, Alphabet and Tesla to define the future of driverless transportation.

The permit was revealed with Apple’s appearance on a list of approved companies on the state automotive regulator’s website yesterday.

Apple’s automotive research project has been under way for more than two years, but it is unclear how soon any product will emerge.

Last year the group abandoned efforts to build an electric vehicle and refocused on the systems that underpin self-driving cars, according to people familiar with the situation.

Apple faces a challenge in maintaining its usual levels of secrecy as it enters more highly regulated markets such as transportation and healthcare.

For several months after discussions with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) were reported in September 2015, vehicles equipped with cameras and sensors were spotted close to Apple’s Cupertino headquarters.

Crowded

Silicon Valley’s self-driving sector is starting to look crowded, although no full commercial service has been deployed on US roads. Apple is the 30th group to receive a permit in California, alongside carmakers Ford, Volkswagen and General Motors, suppliers including Delphi and Bosch and start-ups such as Zoox, Drive.ai and Plus.ai.

The state DMV said Apple had been licensed to test three vehicles, all 2015 Lexus RX450h models, with six drivers. Tesla and GM have more than 20 autonomous testing vehicles on California’s roads. Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving division, has several dozen.

Apple provided no new comment on its autonomous driving programme, but referred to a statement in December when it acknowledged plans to develop self-driving cars with a letter to the highways regulator. Last month the California DMV said it would ease some restrictions on testing self-driving vehicles, potentially paving the way for the public use of robot cars as early as next year.

– (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017)