Reports indicate that Apple has been expanding its fleet of autonomous cars and is now leading the tech sector with regards to the number of self-driving cars that are undertaking tests. According to California Department of Motor Vehicles the iPhone maker has been issued with driverless car permits numbering 55. Additionally Apple has obtained licenses for 83 drivers who can carry out tests of the autonomous car technology on public roads in the state. The only other company which has more driverless car permits and drivers for the same is the Cruise division of General Motors which has 407 drivers and 104 cars.
Per reports Apple is using a Lexus RX450h SUV to test the self-driving software. At the moment all the autonomous vehicles that Apple is testing have safety drivers at the wheel ready to take over should anything go wrong.
Autonomous car software
Speculation regarding Apple’s interest in self-driving cars first surfaced three years ago after the tech giant recruited automotive experts. Initially Apple was said to be exploring an electric vehicle which would be fully designed in-house but that did not work out and the iPhone maker placed the focus on developing autonomous car software instead.
The number of permits that Apple has received is staggering in light of the fact that last year in March the iPhone maker did not possess even a single permit. The first three permits were awarded the following month. But even though it is in the second position in terms of permits rivals are also trying hard to catch up. The autonomous car unit of Google parent company Alphabet, Waymo, has for instance amassed 338 safety driver permits and 51 self-driving vehicle permits. Tesla on the other hand has obtained permits for 92 safety drivers and 39 permits for self-driving cars.
Little public information
While other firms which are testing self-driving car technology have been openly discussing their strategies and plans, Apple has characteristically remained tight-lipped just like it does with other products. In fact one of the reasons this has now become public is the fact that the tech giant was required by law to submit information to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Currently the automotive team is head by Bob Mansfield, a longtime executive at Apple who took over the job in 2016. Apple has given no indication of what it intends to achieve with its autonomous car efforts though one possibility it partnering with traditional vehicle manufacturers.