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

In the first official confirmation of Apple's automotive ambitions, the secretive Cupertino company on Friday received a permit to test self-driving vehicles on California roads.

Analysts said that Apple may accelerate the arrival of a fully autonomous auto to the market.

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 executive at Ford Motor Co (F) and Chrysler.

Apple was not immediately available for comment.

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. And Kenner wrote, "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".

But by last October, many in the team had reportedly left or been reassigned as a result of a strategic shift by the company to focus on the software side of self-driving technology.

Apple's move into self-driving cars has been hotly anticipated for years, and Friday's news is the latest indication that it is serious about the space.

For years, annual iPhone rumors have been forced to compete with similarly hyped whisperings regarding the possibility of an Apple self-driving vehicle. Apple has been working on Project Titan for several years, but has never formally acknowledged it.

As per information released by California DMV, Apple has been granted permit for three vehicles for autonomous driving. Applying for and receiving the permit, however, has made Apple's interest in self-driving cars more public. They join other big-name tech firms like Google and Tesla, as well as more traditional automakers like Volkswagen, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, GM, BMW, Honda, Ford and Subaru. The company's Chief Executive Tim Cook has noted that Apple needs to incorporate its smartphones into vehicle infotainment systems.

  • Patricia Jimenez