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Apple to join the fiercely competitive race to design Self-driving Cars

The California Department of Motor Vehicles had awarded a permit for the company to start testing its self-driving car technology on public roads in the state.

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The Apple logo is shown above a store location entrance, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, in Dallas. Apple is schedule to release their iPhone 5S on Friday. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez), VOA

San Francisco, April 15, 2017: Apple is joining the fiercely competitive race to design self-driving cars, raising the possibility that a company that has already re-shaped culture with its iPhone may try to transform transportation, too.

Ending years of speculation, Apple’s late entry into a crowded field was made official Friday with the disclosure that the California Department of Motor Vehicles had awarded a permit for the company to start testing its self-driving car technology on public roads in the state.

The permit covers three vehicles — all 2015 Lexus RX 450h hybrid SUVs — and six individual drivers. California law requires people to be in a self-driving car who can take control if something goes wrong.

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Apple Goes Mobile … In a New Way

Apple confirmed its arrival in the self-driving car market, but wouldn’t discuss its intentions. Its interest in autonomous vehicle technology, however, has long been clear .

The Cupertino, California, company pointed to a statement that it issued in December. “Apple is investing heavily in machine learning and autonomous systems,” the company said then. “There are many potential applications for these technologies, including the future of transportation.”

Apple released that statement after Steve Kenner, a former Ford Motor executive who is now Apple’s director of product integrity, notified federal regulators of the company’s interest in self-driving cars in a letter.

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

Self-driving cars could also be a lucrative new market. And Apple has been searching for its next act for a while, one that will take it beyond its mainstay phones, tablets and personal computers.

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A Next Big Thing

Although iPhone’s ongoing popularity has helped Apple remain the world’s most valuable company, the company hasn’t had a breakthrough product since the 2010 debut of the iPad, currently in the throes of a three-year sales slump. 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.

Apple will be vying against 29 other companies that already have California permits to test self-driving cars. The list includes major automakers, including Ford, General Motors, BMW, Volkswagen and Tesla, as well as one of its biggest rivals in technology, Google, whose testing of self-driving cars has been spun off into an affiliate called Waymo.

Since Google began its work on self-driving vehicles eight years ago, Waymo’s fleet of self-driving cars has logged more than 2 million miles on the road.

That means Apple has a long way to catch up in self-driving technology. But it has often been a follower in markets that it eventually revolutionized. It wasn’t the first to introduce a digital music player, smartphone, or tablet before its iPod, iPhone and iPad came out.

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Deep Pockets

With $246 billion in cash, Apple also could easily afford to buy technology that accelerates its development of self-driving cars. There has been recurring speculation that Apple might eventually acquire Tesla, which has a market value of about $50 billion. Neither Apple nor Tesla has given any inkling that they’re interested in joining forces, though.

Speculation about Apple’s interest in expanding into automobiles began swirling in 2015 amid media reports that the company had begun secretly working on building its own electric car under the name project “Titan.” Apple never confirmed the existence of Titan, which is now believed to be dead. (VOA)

Next Story

First Product of Apple’s Self-driving Car Project Can Be a Van

In May 2018, with 55 self-driving cars and 83 drivers, Apple touched the second highest number of self-driving cars in the US state of California after General Motor's Cruise, which had 104 vehicles

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The Apple logo is shown outside the company's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California. VOA

The first product of Apple’s self-driving electric car project codenamed “Titan”, could actually be an electric van instead of a car, the media reported.

“According to multiple unnamed sources of German business publication — Manager Magazin, prototypes of Apple’s work have been seen painted in black and silver and the main highlight is that vans are being tested, rather than cars,” Apple Insider reported on Thursday.

In August 2018, Tesla’s former engineering Vice President, Doug Field was appointed by Apple to lead team “Titan”.

“The ‘Apple Car’ which could be arriving between 2023 and 2025, has undergone development at Apple in a variety of different. Originally working on an entire vehicle, the project changed its focus towards self-driving vehicle systems, though there are some signs it is shifting back towards overall vehicular design,” the report said.
The fleet of Apple’s self-driving programmes is made up of 66 Lexus RX450h SUVs, each of which is fitted with huge racks of LIDAR and radar sensors as well as cameras, roaming around the San Francisco Bay Area to perfect the sensors, computer systems and software required for a vehicle to safely drive itself.
Apple, Campus, China
A customer is entering the Apple store in Fairfax, Virginia. VOA

Then January, Apple push out over 200 employees from its electric car project to other parts of the company as part of the re-structuring process of project “Titan”.

The iPhone-maker is also said to be applying some of the “Titan” technology into a self-driving shuttle program titled “Palo Alto to Infinite Loop” or “PAIL” — intended to ferry Apple employees between the Bay Area campuses, using specially modified Volkswagen vans, the report added.

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In May 2018, with 55 self-driving cars and 83 drivers, Apple touched the second highest number of self-driving cars in the US state of California after General Motor’s Cruise, which had 104 vehicles. (IANS)