Apple’s mysterious self-driving car project is chugging along in the background of all the other stuff it’s been doing. It started out with just 3 registered cars in April last year, and that number has now expanded to 55.
Apple is usually ultra-secretive about its projects, it hasn’t been able to escape public scrutiny because the law requires it to submit information to the California DMV. The company’s fleet of autonomous cars on the road is second only to GM Cruise which has 104 vehicles. It’s even managed to knock the Google-owned Waymo and Tesla down to third and fourth place, respectively.
Of course, having more automobiles on the road doesn’t actually mean Apple has advanced beyond its peers. It currently has 83 drivers testing the cars out. While California has begun allowing completely autonomous human-less vehicles to drive on public roads, the iPhone maker hasn’t obtained the permits for this yet.
Apple has so far been using Lexus RX450h sports utility cars equipped with LIDAR tech and a bunch of cameras, rather than an actual automobile it designed from the ground up. This is pretty much what all its rivals have been doing as well, but in Apple’s case the brand may never progress to the point where it’ll be building its own self-driving electric vehicle.
That was the plan back in 2015 when Apple first went on a hiring spree to get the best in the business. However, this didn’t work out and the firm decided to pivot into just focusing on the software side of things. The fact that it’s adding more cars to its fleet suggests that this new line of thinking is working out for it.
It’s still not clear what Apple’s endgame will be. It may just partner with car manufacturers to deploy its self-driving software, like it’s done with CarPlay, or it could go back to its original dream of making an Apple Car.