That Apple is doing something with autonomous vehicles is one of the worst-kept secrets in Silicon Valley. Rumors have circulated for years that Apple is planning some kind of car, and now we know for sure that a research group is testing something.
The California DMV awarded Apple a permit to test autonomous vehicles in the state on Friday. Apple has not commented on the application for a permit, but a spokesperson instead referred to a previous statement that said Apple continues to invest in autonomous technology, AI, and machine learning.
The obvious point here is that you don’t apply for a permit to test autonomous vehicles unless you actually want to test autonomous vehicles. This doesn’t remotely mean that Apple is building an Apple Car, just that it’s working on some kind of driverless technology. The majority of the companies that are permitted to test in California aren’t trying to build their own vehicle platform. Instead, most companies take an off-the-shelf car and attach some kind of sensor package, which is most likely what Apple’s doing currently.
This is not the first confirmed interest that Apple has had in vehicles. The company attempted a takeover of McLaren, a British racing car company, late last year. Reports suggested that Apple initially considered making its own fully-electric car to rival Tesla, codenamed Project Titan. It sounds like that project ended, and Apple decided instead to focus on the technology side of car-making.