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Apple Gets OK to Test Self-Driving Cars in California

Apple's secret plans for a self-driving car aren't so secret anymore. The company received a permit from the state of California today (April 14) to test self-driving cars.

Apple's CarPlay. Credit: Apple

(Image credit: Apple's CarPlay. Credit: Apple)

This is presumably for Project Titan, the on-again, off-again self-driving car that has been in the works for several years. Last year, Apple reportedly laid off Titan staffers and gave the remaining team a strict deadline to prove the feasibility of a self-driving car, while other reports suggest Apple looked into shifting its automotive focus to instead build the smart interface for other car makers.

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But this permit means that Apple can start putting driverless cars on the road in the Golden State. It joins the ranks of Mercedes Benz, Google, Tesla, Nvidia, Ford, Honda and Nissan, among many others. Applying for and receiving the permit, however, has made Apple's interest in self-driving cars more public. It also means that Apple will have to report accidents and disengagements of autonomous driving modes, which will also be made public by the state.

When asked for comment, Apple pointed me back to their statement to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in December: "We’ve provided comments to NHTSA because Apple is investing heavily in machine learning and autonomous systems. There are many potential applications for these technologies, including the future of transportation, so we want to work with NHTSA to help define the best practices for the industry."

TechCrunch reports that permit from California's Department of Motor Vehicles covers three cars — the same 2015 Lexus RX540h cars Google's used in its self-driving car program — and six drivers.

It's also possible that Apple has applied for the permit just to have one, but isn't ready to test it out just yet. Because Apple will have to submit regular reports, we may soon see just how far Apple has come with a car. If the company's really going on the road, perhaps the project hasn't stalled the way many expected.

Andrew E. Freedman

Andrew E. Freedman is an editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming as well as keeping up with the latest news. He holds a M.S. in Journalism (Digital Media) from Columbia University. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Kotaku, PCMag, Complex, Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag among others.