Published: Sun, April 16, 2017
Technology | By Tonya May

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

It is rumored that over 1,000 employees are now working on " Project Titan" at their main and satellite offices.

Some of the other rumors floating around point to Apple rolling out a completed autonomous auto as early as 2019, but that does seem to be a rather unrealistic date in the timeline.

The Cupertino, California, company instead pointed to a statement that it issued in December.

It has always been known that Apple is working on automotive-related projects, but the company has never publicly confirmed any details. Last fall, Apple shut down parts of their self-driving vehicle program and had some layoffs, but this week, as Gizmodo reports, there's evidence that they're still in the game.

"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", Kenner wrote. The California permit covers three 2015 Lexus RX450h SUVs, and six drivers, the DMV said.

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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.

While big-players like Google (via Waymo) and Uber have generated a lot of publicity over their autonomous vehicle technology, with Apple this has been more of the case of rumor without substance. 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.

Aside from the new permit, Apple has provided little insight into its vehicle-related efforts.

The autonomous-vehicle industry has also been beset by a spate of lawsuits, as companies attempt to protect their trade secrets and prevent their engineers from taking their know-how on the open market where millions of dollars are available. Apple had not openly announced that it was working on an electric vehicle.

"It's encouraging to hear Apple is still in the autonomous vehicle game", said Rebecca Lindland, executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book. It is also working on Apple integration into vehicle infotainment systems. However, some others say that the company is not working on a vehicle. California law requires people to be in a self-driving vehicle who can take over if something goes wrong.

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