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Apple Granted a Permit in California to Test Autonomous Vehicles

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【Summary】Apple revealed on Friday, April 14th (PDT) that it had been granted a permit to test autonomous vehicles on public roads in California.

Original Eric Walz    Apr 14, 2017 6:32 PM PT
Apple Granted a Permit in California to Test Autonomous Vehicles

By Eric Walz

Apple revealed on Friday, April 14th (PDT) that it had been granted a permit to test self-driving vehicles on public roads in California. Although rumors about Apple's "Project Titan" have been floating around Silicon Valley for some time, the notoriously secretive company has never officially stated it has been working on any self-driving car efforts.

When asked about it in 2015, Apple CEO Tim Cook refused to reveal any information about the Apple Car project when he appeared on comedian Stephen Colbert's popular CBS TV show.

Meanwhile in 2015, Apple was renovating an office complex in Sunnyvale California, and the city's permits referred to a "auto work area" in a warehouse. Public records also showed that the company had asked officials in the Contra Costa Transportation Authority about their self-driving-car testing site at GoMentum Station, which is the largest testing ground for self-driving vehicles in the United States, with 19.6 miles of paved roadway at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station, 30 miles east of San Francisco. 

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, Apple's testing permit covers three vehicles, all 2015 Lexus RX540h SUV's, as well as six vehicle operators. No additional information was provided by the California DMV.

So far, Apple has not publicly commented on the DMV permits.

In a letter sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in December of 2016 in which Apple commented on the proposed Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, Apple hinted about its future endeavors. In the letter, Apple stated that it uses machine learning to make its products and services smarter, more intuitive, and more personal. They also stated that 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, which includes self-driving cars.

It is still not known if Apple intends to build its own self-driving car. More than likely, Apple is working to create the user friendly, intuitive product experience Apple is known for, and install it in an autonomous car. Under the leadership of Bob Mansfield, Apple's former hardware engineering chief who has taken over the Apple Car project, Apple has transitioned to building an autonomous driving system rather than a full car.

Industry insiders believe that Apple is developing an autonomous-driving system based on computer vision, LiDAR, and mapping, while also building an in-car Apple experience seamlessly integrating Apple's entertainment and personal computing technology.

Although Apple is late entering the self-driving car race, as one of the world's most valuable companies it has nearly unlimited financial resources for research and development as needed. It reported cash reserves of $246 billion in the first quarter of 2017.

The California DMV has previously granted permits to other major companies including Google, Tesla, Ford, BMW, Subaru, General Motors, and most recently Uber. Per California regulations, Apple will be required to file regular reports detailing statistics on its self-driving car project, which includes any instances of human intervention or accidents.

resource from: New York Times

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