Apple takes its time launching new products, as the company will sometimes reveal in the aftermath of its announcements. Johny Ive and Co. worked on the Watch for at least three years before making it official, and 3D Touch for the iPhone 6s required “multi, multi multi years” to complete. For the time being, Apple’s Project Titan car is also a more-or-less well-kept secret, but Apple’s first vehicle might also become the first Apple product to be confirmed well ahead of an announcement. After all, it will be very hard for Apple to hide that it’s testing prototypes on the open road, especially if it’s a self-driving car.
According to current regulations, any carmaker looking to test self-driving cars on public roads has to receive the okay from the DMV – in this case California’s DMV – meaning that all the information Apple would have to submit would become public.
As The Guardian reports, Apple will have to offer details of the make, model and vehicle identification number of the cars they want to test, explain autonomous features and identify test drivers by name. That’s something many others are doing to obtain permits, with the news site saying that so far 10 companies — including Google, Uber, Honda and BMW — have been issued permits for about 80 autonomous vehicles and more than 300 drivers.
Apple didn’t get one yet, but The Guardian found out Apple met with California DMV officials last month, which seems to be further proof that an Apple car is in the making. Apple senior legal counsel Mike Maletic met on August 17th for an hour with DMV deputy director Bernard Soriano and chief of strategic planner Stephanie Dougherty – both are DMV officials who are co-sponsors of California’s autonomous vehicle regulation project. DMV’s deputy director and chief counsel Brian Soublet also attended the meeting.
The Guardian says that Apple may find ways of testing its self-driving cars that don’t involve obtaining the DMV’s permission, or reporting on testing progress and potential issues a driver encounters. Apple could choose private facilities or buy its own property to test out the car.
But the fact that Apple met the DMV might be an indication that the car project is reaching a stage where public testing is unavoidable.
The news site says that not too long ago, Apple appointed an engineering program manager (EPM) to its Project Titan car endeavor, a move that suggests the product is ready to leave the lab.