Apple is reportedly having 200 people test driving its autonomous vehicles in apparent efforts to ramp up the concept from prototype to full-scale production.
This comes as the race for driverless cars goes up a gear, with competitors like Zoox already trialling its robotaxis on public roads.
The company’s Project Titan that deals with its autonomous vehicles has come back from nearly being scrapped, to now increasing its number of test drivers to 201, according to Data from the California DMV. This increase builds on the 51 additional testers added in 2022 with five new testers in 2023. The size of the company’s self-driving fleet, however, hasn’t changed much since 2021, which currently has a fleet of 67 vehicles.
In California, every vehicle involved in testing has to be registered with the DMV and has to have a special permit to drive on public roads. This public information has allowed researchers to see the current progress or issues experienced by the testing of the vehicles.
Like its competitors, Alphabet’s Waymo and Cruise, Apple’s vehicles have been involved in some ‘collisions’ during testing – 16 times so far – but it is currently lower than the 227 and 203 collisions experienced by them. Yet, its fleet is also about 200 vehicles smaller too.
Project Titan is believed to have evolved into three separate programmes. Although Apple’s autonomous car has been put off many times, autonomous driving technology has continued development.
The second part is Apple CarPlay, which is designed as an operating system for any vehicle. The latest edition of the software will be introduced later this year on Acura; Audi, Ford, Honda, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Polestar, Porsche, Renault, and Volvo vehicles, which CarPlay intends to fully integrate with the cars and support all the main functions.
And last, the Apple car itself. The company went from the idea of an economy car to a luxury electric vehicle only to go back to an everyday EV.
This transitory idea development is perhaps reflected in the company’s hiring practices, having disbanded existing staff only to recruit new experts later.
Despite the promising news of the increased number of testers, Apple is reported to have not yet applied for the driverless permit and currently test drivers are always behind the wheel of its vehicles – a fact which lead to its only vehicle incident of 2023 when the car bumped a curb and damaged its wheel. Apple isn’t expected to release its self-driving vehicle until 2026 at the earliest.
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