Apple is getting serious about self-driving cars
Though Apple’s plans to develop and manufacture a branded car may currently be on hold, the company’s plans to research and develop self-driving car technologies appears to be moving forward. Just about a week after Apple obtained a permit to test autonomous vehicles in the state of California, Business Insider filed a public-records request and managed to gain access to materials accompanying Apple’s permit application. The filed documents provide us with some interesting new information regarding Apple’s training program for its nascent self-driving car initiative.
According to training materials which correspond to software Apple calls the “Apple Automated System”, it appears that Apple engineers have been busy developing a suite of software and hardware sensors designed to assist a car drive with the flow of traffic while avoiding other vehicles and pedestrians.
According to the training packet, the car that Apple’s staffers are using to test the self-driving technology is outfitted with consumer video game gear such as a Logitech steering wheel and pedals to actuate drive by wire.
Whereas Apple’s earlier car efforts seemed to entail hiring hundreds of employees with vast automotive experience across all aspects of the car development and manufacturing process, it stands to reason that Apple, for the time being, has decided to primarily focus its attention on self-driving technologies.
With cars boasting Apple’s mysterious autonomous software having been approved for use on the road, California law holds that the drivers/passengers overseeing the testing must be sufficiently trained and ready to assume control of the wheel at any moment.
Apple applied for a permit for six drivers to drive three Lexus RX450h SUVs. Apple’s drivers, named in the application, are mostly Ph.D.s specializing in machine learning, some of whom previously worked for companies like Bosch and Tesla, according to their LinkedIn profiles.
Apple said its vehicles would be able to capture and store “relevant data before a collision occurs” in its application.
That Apple is exploring self-driving technologies may not be all that surprising, but the more interesting question is if it really matters. As it stands now, we can only presume that Apple’s progress with its own technology isn’t anywhere close to matching what established automakers and a myriad of start-up companies have already developed. Going forward, it will be interesting to see if Apple’s foray into the self-driving world will ever yield a marketable product or if it will simply become an Apple research initiative that never sees the light of day.
Apple’s full permit application can be viewed over here via AppleInsider.