Apple’s autonomous car project is an open secret in Silicon Valley. The latest update comes from a report on Jalopnik that asserts Apple is leasing the a proving ground previously owned by Fiat-Chrysler.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has officially confirmed in a WWDC interview with Bloomberg Television that his company is working on autonomous driving software. He wouldn’t say if there’s an iCar in the works though.
Apple was added to the list of 29 other companies, including Tesla, Google, Ford and Mercedes, that are testing or planning to test self-driving vehicles in the state of California, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles’s (DMV) website Friday.
The permit allows Apple to test vehicles in autonomous mode on public roads.
It’s unclear if Apple sought to obtain a permit because it wanted to test-drive its own autonomous vehicles or if the company was simply looking to experiment with the rumored autonomous driving features in a future CarPlay version.
Earlier this year, Apple poached Alexander Hitzinger, the former technical director of Porsche’s race car program who helped the car maker return to the Le Mans endurance race, a company source told Reuters last Friday. The move was first reported by Germany’s Manager Magazin.
Volkswagen-owned Porsche officially confirmed Hitzinger had left the luxury carmaker in the spring, but didn’t share any further information.
Apple in November penned a letter to the NHTSA (U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) regarding autonomous vehicle polices and other concerns. VentureBeat unearthed the letter, which was signed by Apple VP of Product Integrity and former Ford safety executive Steve Kenner.
Back in September, The Financial Times, The New York Times and Bloomberg ran reports that Apple was considering either a full takeover bid or at least a large investment in the British supercar maker McLaren Automotive. A potential acquisition was valued at between $1.3 billion and $1.9 billion though McLaren later said it was “not in discussion with Apple in respect of any potential investment.”
Saturday, McLaren CEO Mike Flewitt confirmed in an interview with Reuters that his company did hold talks with Apple after all, but said the discussions never progressed towards a definitive proposition.