The iPhone of cars? Apple enters self-driving car race

Analysts said that Apple may accelerate the arrival of a fully autonomous vehicle to the market. Recent reporting suggests that the company is no longer attempting to build its own autonomous, electric auto to compete with companies like Tesla, but is instead focused on developing self-driving software it can deploy in partnership with existing carmakers. Apple's Project Titan, at one point was believed to have over 1000 employees that were working on it. So, why do they need a permit for testing?

While big-players like Google (via Waymo) and Uber have generated a lot of publicity over their autonomous vehicle technology, with Apple this has been more of the case of rumor without substance. It may be an Android-based application to support self-driving vehicle produced by other companies.

Neil Cybart, an independent analyst who writes about Apple at the Web site Above Avalon, said the company appeared to have moved away from plans to build and sell cars like Tesla Motors Inc does. Its interest in autonomous vehicle technology, however, has always been clear. The permit covers the registration of three Lexus RX450h SUVs, and allows six drivers to operate them. Apple had not openly announced that it was working on an electric vehicle.

Apple has been coy about its self-driving vehicle project, known internally as Project Titan. Companies have been issued permits to test cars in the city include Alphabet Inc's Google unit, Ford Motor Co, Volkswagen Ag, Daimler AG, Tesla Motors Inc., and General Motors Co.

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Apple noted that it uses artificial intelligence to "make its products and services smarter, more intuitive and more personal", and said it was investing heavily in studying automation and was "excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation".

Among the list of permitted companies is also ride-sharing company Uber, who carried out autonomous testing without a permit in California past year. Unfortunately, the company representative declined to give direct comment on its effort to write about autonomous vehicle regulation to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Tim Cook - the Chief Executive -implied it. However, some others say that the company is not working on a auto. Again, the letter to NHTSA still hinted that Apple is still committed to the project.

Like those other companies, Apple's test vehicles will have human drivers behind the wheel when they go out on public roads, according to California regulations.

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