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

Tim Cook

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Apple Inc (AAPL) has secured a permit to test autonomous vehicles in California, the state Department of Motor Vehicles said on Friday.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles awarded Apple a permit to test autonomous vehicles today and disclosed that information on its website.

Chinese tech giant Baidu, which is working on autonomous driving at its California research center, this week announced the acquisition of xPerception, a U.S. startup that provides visual perception software, along with services and devices for people who are visually impaired. This means that Apple has secured a permit to test its self-driving vehicle in California.

The Cupertino, California, company pointed to a statement that it issued in December. While other companies working on self-driving technology have shared their plans, Apple has remained silent about its project for self-driving vehicles.

As per California DMV, "The California Autonomous Vehicle Testing Regulations require every manufacturer authorized to test autonomous vehicles on public roads to submit an annual report summarizing the disengagements of the technology during testing".

Like others, Apple believes self-driving cars could ease congestion, prevent millions of crashes and save thousands of lives annually in traffic accidents often caused by drunk or distracted motorists.

The company was also at one point thought to be designing a top-to-bottom vehicle, but the company had reined in the project due to a number of obstacles and switched to the more narrow focus of a self-driving platform. 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. On the list of companies receiving permits to test self-driving vehicles on California roads, Apple's name popped up for the first time at the end of a list of 29 other firms. The list includes VW, Mercedes, Google, Bosch, Tesla, BMW, GM, Ford, Baidu, Honda, Subaru and Faraday. But it has often been a follower in markets that it eventually revolutionized. It wasn't the first to introduce a digital music player, cellphone, or tablet before its iPod, iPhone and iPad came out. Apple has reportedly a thousand workers assigned to the Project Titan.

Apple probably is not building its own auto, however, and Project Titan may just be a code word for the firm's work on vehicle technology, Moorhead said.

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