Apple to begin testing self-driving car tech in California

Apple-Self Driving Cars

Apple Inc., the manufacturer of iPhone and other electronic devices, joined Friday more than a dozen companies to be allowed to test self-driving vehicles on public roads in California. This comes with the news that Apple has been granted permission by California's Department of Motor Vehicles to test self-driving cars on the streets of California.

Though no specific start date is known at this time, Apple soon will begin testing its autonomous tech in three 2015 Lexus RF450h SUVs, according to Bloomberg.

According to the DMV, disengagements occur "when a failure of the autonomous technology is detected" or "when the safe operation of the vehicle requires that the autonomous vehicle test driver disengage the autonomous mode and take immediate manual control of the vehicle". "Apple could bring innovation to either cars being retrofitted with the self-driving technology, or to new ones designed from scratch".

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

In a retrenchment of one of its most ambitious initiatives, Apple has shuttered parts of its self-driving auto project and laid off dozens of employees, according to three people briefed on the move who were not allowed to speak about it publicly.

Apple, which is notoriously secretive about almost everything except when staging one of its high-profile product announcements, had no comment. The dry spell has raised doubts as to whether Apple lost some of its trend-setting magic with the death of co-founder Steve Jobs in 2011.

Traditional automakers such as GM, Ford, Honda and Mercedes-Benz also have permits to test their models on California's roads. Last year Waymo - a company spun out of Google's self-driving programme - clocked up 635,868 miles in California.

My personal guess would be that Apple is working towards the development of complete self-driving vehicle tech + vehicle operating systems - in other words, towards development of Apple-branded self-driving vehicle operating systems and hardware. But it has often been a follower in markets that it eventually revolutionized.

In October, CEO Tim Cook did not directly address press queries about the rumors of the company's movements in the vehicle arena, but did point out that the company is always on the lookout for new things, and that the automobile industry has a lot of technologies that can be developed.

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