Rumours have been rife for some time now that tech giant Apple intends to test and develop a line of self-driving cars. Over the weekend, The Guardian received documents in response to a Public Records Act request that confirmed these rumours.
GoMentum station, previously the Concord naval weapons station, in the San Francisco Bay Area, is the proposed site for the testing of the Apple car. GoMentum station, according to USA Today, is being “retooled” as an autonomous car testing site. Teams from Mercedes, Honda, Tesla and others have reportedly already investigated or used the site to test autonomous car concepts. Now Apple is the latest to join this list. The site is notorious for its high levels of secrecy and security, being closed to the public and guarded by armed military personnel. When a Tesla team attempted to tour the facility, foreign workers and other personnel were refused entry by military personnel. This level of secrecy should suit Apple right down to the ground, as the tech company’s love of secrecy is well-known and even extends to its own internal communications.
Reports indicate that Apple’s autonomous car project, reportedly code-named Project Titan, is very near to having an actual car ready for testing. While this is quick progress (it would appear that Apple’s engagement with automotive heavyweights only started late last year), they still have a lot of catching up to do with potential competitors like Google already field testing their own self driving cars.
Perhaps they are right to be circumspect, however – heavy manufacturing is a huge leap for a company that has largely been involved with the production of lightweight tech and peripherals. The experiment is bound to be a risky one. While Apple is known to have large reserves of cash, the sunk costs involved in even partnering with an existing car company are likely to prove even larger.
All that aside, Apple is an exciting entrant into this potential market. Their trademark consumer experience focus and and emphasis on beauty and software/hardware integration is likely to bring an entirely distinctive element into the development of the emerging technology of self driving cars. Of course, it will probably be a long time before we see anything more concrete from Apple, a company that prefers to launch its products pretty much as they become ready for sale. But the speculation will be fun. We can be guaranteed that it will be a classic Apple vs Google scenario, with Apple’s sleek aesthetic competing for our hearts and minds with Google’s utilitarian, customisable product philosophy.
Unsurprisingly, Apple has declined to make any comment.
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