Thursday, 24 August, 2017

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

Cecilia Poole | 16 April, 2017, 01:01

Apple may start testing its much rumoured self-driving auto soon, as the company recently got a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to test autonomous driving tech.

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.

Chinese tech giant Baidu, which is working on autonomous driving at its California research center, this week announced the acquisition of xPerception, a USA startup that provides visual perception software, along with services and devices for people who are visually impaired. This confirms existing speculation that Apple Inc is working on an autonomous vehicle technology.

"The permit covers three vehicles, all 2015 Lexus RX450h, and six drivers", said the spokesperson to Business Insider. Apple had not openly announced that it was working on an electric auto. Apple's permit from the DMV and their recent letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) establish that they are not far behind its competitors. The list includes major automakers, including Ford, General Motors, BMW, Volkswagen and Tesla, as well as one of its biggest rivals in technology, Google, whose testing of self-driving cars has been spun off into an affiliate called Waymo.

To date, the tech giant has been infuriatingly secretive about it's efforts to build a self-driving vehicle, code named Project Titan.

According to Apple spokesperson, test drive should improve artificial intelligence systems that must learn the ways to interact with an unpredictability of human drivers. However, does the company want to go beyond? Company CEO Tim Cook flat out refused in 2015 to reveal any information when he appeared on comedian Stephen Colbert's TV show.

The iPhone maker has not officially acknowledged the existence of the project, which appeared to be adrift past year.

Many companies have said the first cars will launch in 2020 but some experts believe it may take much longer due to regulatory challenges. Companies interested in testing their self-driving vehicles in California must first apply to the DMV before they are allowed on the roads. Forgive us for burying the lede bit with a wonderful old time Steve Jobs reference, but regardless, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has granted the company permission to test self-driving vehicles on public roads. This makes the list accessible to the public.

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