(In second paragraph, corrects Lexus model to RX450h from
RX540h in line with correction by Department of Motor Vehicles)
By Jessica Resnick-Ault
April 14 Apple Inc has secured a permit
to test autonomous vehicles in California, which allows it to
conduct test drives in three vehicles with six drivers, the
state Department of Motor Vehicles said on Friday.
Although it has never openly acknowledged it is looking into
building an electric car, Apple has recruited dozens of auto
experts. The vehicles are all 2015 Lexus RX450h, according to
"This does confirm what's long been rumored: that Apple is
at least toying with the idea of getting into the autonomous
game in some capacity," said Chris Theodore, President of
consultancy Theodore & Associates, and a former Vice President
at Ford Motor Company and Chrysler.
The permit does not necessarily mean Apple is building a
car. "This is not necessarily automobiles as initially rumored,
but software or possibly hardware associated with autonomous
technology," Theodore said.
An Apple spokesman declined to comment directly on the
filing, pointing back to a statement when the company submitted
its comments to the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration late last year.
After a five-page letter last November from Steve Kenner,
Apple's director of product integrity, to NHTSA, the company was
under increased speculation that they would enter into the
competitive self-driving space.
"The company is investing heavily in the study of machine
learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of
automated systems in many areas, including transportation,"
At that time Apple said it had 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
Apple executives have been coy about their interest in cars.
Chief Executive Tim Cook has suggested that Apple wants to move
beyond integration of Apple smartphones into vehicle
Apple joins a growing list of traditional carmakers,
technology companies, and small start ups to test drive cars in
California - all vying to be the first to bring self-driving
cars to the masses.
Companies that have been issued permits also include
Alphabet Inc's Google unit, Ford Motor Co,
Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG, Tesla Motors
Inc and General Motors Co.
Many companies have said the first cars will launch in 2020
but some experts believe it may take much longer due to
(Reporting by Shalini Nagarajan in Bengaluru and Jessica
Resnick-Ault in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr)