News Apple grows its self-driving car fleet, but what exactly is it doing?

22:07  15 may  2018
22:07  15 may  2018 Source:   cnet.com

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Apple has expanded its autonomous vehicle test fleet , according to Bloomberg, jumping from just three cars registered with the California DMV last year, to 27 vehicles in total now. Apple has been adding new cars to its fleet since around July of last year, according to the report.

Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr. California has truly opened the floodgates. And we’re not talking about Governor Jerry Brown’s recent announcement regarding the end of the drought emergency — but the growing wave of self - driving cars washing over the Golden State.

This photo appears to show the sensor array on top of an Apple self-driving car.© CNET This photo appears to show the sensor array on top of an Apple self-driving car.

Apple's self-driving car program has seemed for years to be one of the industry's worst-kept secrets. Between the weird lump-like shape that ended up on the cover of Motor Trend and the sensor-rig equipped test cars that have been spotted all over California, the secret is out but what exactly is Apple doing and why is it doing it so slowly?

Thanks to the California DMV (and MacReports), we know that Apple currently has a fleet of 55 vehicles, up from 27 in January, registered for autonomous testing with human safety drivers on public roads. We also know that the company has 83 drivers that are certified to serve as the safety drivers for these cars. Interestingly, Apple has not applied for one of California's new fully driverless autonomous testing permits.

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It seems that Apple grows its fleet of self - driving test cars . Apple has, again, expanded Its fleet of autonomous cars in California. Apple originally registered three vehicles. Apple grew from 3 to 45 between April 2017 and March 2018, now this number increased to 55.

The increase in fleet size indicates that Apple is stepping up its self - driving car efforts, but little is known about the development program. Lexus RX test mules allegedly belonging to Apple have been spotted around California over the past few months.

So, we know that Apple has cars and safety drivers, what we don't know is what exactly its been doing with them. See, California requires all companies performing autonomous vehicle testing within its boundaries to submit what is called a "Vehicle Disengagement Report" that outlines both the number of times that a human driver had to intervene and wrest control from the car, and the circumstances surrounding these interventions, aka disengagements. Apple only received its permit to test in April of 2017, and thus doesn't have to file one until January of 2019.

The current belief is that rather than offer the public an "Apple car," it will license its self-driving car technology to other manufacturers, something that seems a little different for Apple, a company that is known for keeping a tight leash on its intellectual property and closely controlling its image.

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Self - driving cars are only attractive to fleet managers, delivery and taxi services; consumers will mostly not buy them. It launched and sold its first chips for use by the car manufacturers in 2007 and has grown rapidly ever since.

Ford also demonstrated what its self - driving cars can do this week. The company has been working on autonomous technology for over a decade, and recently committed to releasing a fleet of autonomous taxis in 2021.

a close up of a person: Apple Holds Product Launch Event At New Campus In Cupertino© Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. Apple Holds Product Launch Event At New Campus In Cupertino

What exactly are Tim Cook and Jony Ive up to? Are they testing the Apple self-driving cars in some secret volcano lair off of the Northern California coast, gliding around in electric silence broken only by fits of maniacal laughter and occasional geological rumbling? Who can say?

Apple could not immediately be reached for comment on this story.

This was originally published on Roadshow.

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