The Apple Car might be appearing sooner than we thought

19 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Apple did what anyone wanting to use California’s roadways must do: Talk to the DMV.

San Francisco/Frankfurt: Apple executives met with officials from California’s automotive regulator to discuss self-driving vehicles, in the latest sign of Silicon Valley companies’ growing ambitions in the car sector. “DMV often meets with various companies regarding DMV operations. The Apple meeting was to review DMV’s autonomous vehicle regulations,” the California Department of Motor Vehicles said in a statement, after a report in the Guardian earlier on Friday.

The Financial Times first reported that Apple was assembling a team of automotive experts in a secret R&D lab close to its Silicon Valley headquarters in February, amid reports that a minivan with an array of cameras and sensors mounted on its roof, registered to the iPhone maker, was spotted on roads around the San Francisco Bay Area. The Guardian says it obtained documents saying that Apple senior legal counsel Mike Maletic had an hour-long meeting on August 17 with the DMV’s self-driving car experts Bernard Soriano and Stephanie Dougherty. According to The Guardian, the California DMV missed its early 2015 deadline for drafting the regulations, but the department is issuing permits for a self-driving car test program.

The Wall Street Journal reported in February that Apple already had “hundreds of employees” working on it’s autonomous car project, which CEO Tim Cook apparently green-lit a year ago. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, visited BMW’s headquarters last year to discuss a potential collaboration with the luxury carmaker, according to reports in German media. The project — dubbed “Titan” — could end up involving as many as 1,000 Apple employees, said the WSJ, citing sources familiar with the project. Sir Jonathan Ive, Apple’s chief design officer, has a collection of sports cars and is chauffeured to work in a Bentley, according to a New Yorker profile, while Eddy Cue, head of its iTunes and services business, sits on the board of Ferrari. In June, Sir Jonathan was among around 20 high-level attendees from the automotive and technology industries at a meeting to discuss the future of the car, held at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England.

The Guardian noted that Apple can keep its car under wraps by testing it on private property, but that’s not the same as a test on public roads in real conditions. Also present at the meeting, convened by Lord March, owner of the Goodwood estate, were auto industry luminaries such as Daimler chief executive Dieter Zetsche and top management from General Motors, BMW and Aston Martin.

Apple had previously reached out to executives at GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre test facility closed to the public, but it’s unclear if the company ever put its car to the test at that location. The story behind the story: When rumors of an Apple car first emerged, it seemed like the company was in the very early stages of envisioning what its self-driving vehicle would be like.

But the signal that Silicon Valley has the automotive sector in its targets was plain to see, one of the guests told the FT. “It was clear: the barbarians are at the gate.” Earlier this week, on the eve of the Frankfurt motor show, Google announced that it had poached former Hyundai and Truecar veteran Jeff Krafcik to head its driverless car venture.

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