Apple is going to test self-driving cars2 min read

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After months of speculation that the company is developing automotive technology, Apple has officially leaped into the war for self-driving cars by obtaining a test permit from California regulators.

The permit allows Apple to begin testing up to three 2015 Lexus SUVs similar to the type that Google uses for its autonomous cars.

By obtaining clearance from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles, Apple is signaling that it is serious about pushing forward with self-driving technology despite reports last northern autumn that it was scaling back its ambitions.

California’s DMV disclosed the permit on its website on Friday, which lists several dozen other companies that are testing self-driving technology. The group includes BMW, Ford, Honda, Nissan, Uber, and others.

Like those other companies, Apple’s test vehicles will have human drivers behind the wheel when they go out on public roads, according to California regulations.

Speculation surrounding an automotive project has been bubbling for years, with the company keeping a tight lid on its plans.

The project quickly became something of an open secret among technology watchers, even if it was never truly clear what Apple was working on. The ambiguity surrounding the effort was reflected in the numerous names that circulated about the project, such as the “Apple Car”, “the iCar” and “Project Titan”.

The company CEO, Tim Cook
The company CEO, Tim Cook

Some predicted that the company would itself be producing driveable vehicles. Others said Apple was more likely focusing on software that could be used to control a car or to upgrade a car by injecting it with autonomous capabilities.

Some reports suggested Apple’s new vehicle could be powered exclusively by battery-electric technology, much like cars produced by Tesla.

A 2015 hiring spree at the company for automotive engineers prompted another wave of rumors. Some of the new hires came from companies such as Ford and Tesla, who are also researching self-driving technology. But by last October, many in the team had reportedly left or been reassigned as a result of a strategic shift by the company to focus on the software side of self-driving technology.

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