Self-driving car tests: Apple Self-Driving Car

Published: August 15, 2015

Self-driving car tests: Apple Self-Driving Car, Apple is building a self-driving car in Silicon Valley, and is scouting for secure locations in the San Francisco Bay area to test it, the Guardian has learned. Documents show the oft-rumoured Apple car project appears to be further along than many suspected.

In May, engineers from Apple’s secretive Special Project group met with officials from GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre former naval base near San Francisco that is being turned into a high-security testing ground for autonomous vehicles.

In correspondence obtained by the Guardian under a public records act request, Apple engineer Frank Fearon wrote: “We would … like to get an understanding of timing and availability for the space, and how we would need to coordinate around other parties who would be using [it].”

Apple declined to comment.

GoMentum Station is on the old Concord naval weapons station, a disused second world war-era facility with 20 miles of paved highways and city streets. The base is closed to the public and guarded by the military, making it, officials claim, “the largest secure test facility in the world” for the “testing validation and commercialization of connected vehicle (CV) applications and autonomous vehicles (AV) technologies to define the next generation of transportation network infrastructure.” Mercedes-Benz and Honda have already carried out experiments with self-driving cars behind its barbed-wire fences.

This security is bound to appeal to Apple, which has hundreds of engineers quietly working on automotive technologies in an anonymous office building in Sunnyvale, four miles from its main campus in Cupertino. Details of the project are still unknown but it seems that Apple has a self-driving car almost ready for the road. In late May, Jack Hall, program manager for autonomous vehicles at GoMentum Station, wrote to Fearon to postpone a tour of the facility but noted: “We would still like to meet in order to keep everything moving and to meet your testing schedule.”

Apple has been rumoured to be working on a self-driving electric car, codenamed Project Titan, but this is the first time its existence has been documented. In May, Apple senior vice-president Jeff Williams called the car “the ultimate mobile device” and said that Apple was “exploring a lot of different markets … [in which] we think we can make a huge amount of difference”.

The move comes as Google, Uber and other tech companies are pouring cash into robot cars. Apple chief executive Tim Cook has held a series of meetings with car executives in recent months and the company has poached automotive experts from established players, including the head of Mercedes Benz’s Silicon Valley research arm.

Cook has met with Fiat-Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne and may have toured BMW’s i3 electric car assembly line in Germany last year. The company has also been recruiting automotive experts from Silicon Valley and beyond, hiring engineers from Tesla Motors and Mercedes-Benz, as well as power experts from electric car battery maker A123 Systems. Fearon previously worked on an innovative electric motorbike at Silicon Valley start-up Lit Motors, and helped to build an autonomous robotic paraglider while studying at Georgia Institute of Technology.


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