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

The fiercely competitive and lucrative self-driving auto market now sees Apple joining the race.

On Friday, the California Department of Motor Vehicles provided tantalizing confirmation that not only is Apple working on automotive technology, it also has plans for autonomous vehicles.

According to the California DMV, Apple has three vehicles registered under the autonomous driving permit, all of which are 2015 Lexus RX crossovers. Project Titan supposedly started off as a means to build a self-driving Apple auto.

Late previous year, Apple submitted a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in which it said that it was "investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation". While other companies working on self-driving technology have shared their plans, Apple has remained silent about its project for self-driving vehicles.

Subject to standard regulations for testing autonomous technology on public roads, Apple's test cars will have a person behind the wheel to monitor the testing.




After a five-page letter last November from Steve Kenner, Apple's director of product integrity, to NHTSA, the company was under increased speculation that they would enter into the competitive self-driving space.

The autonomous-vehicle industry has also been beset by a spate of lawsuits, as companies attempt to protect their trade secrets and prevent their engineers from taking their know-how on the open market where millions of dollars are available. And Apple has been searching for its next act for a while, one that will take it beyond its mainstay phones, tablets and personal computers.

In another sign of the investment in self-driving cars, GM said this week it will add more than 1,100 jobs in California over five years at its Cruise Automation unit to boost its self-driving efforts.

That means Apple has a long way to catch up in self-driving technology, but it's also a company with a history of trailing in markets that it eventually revolutionizes. It wasn't the first to introduce a digital music player, smartphone, or tablet before its iPod, iPhone and iPad came out. As per media reports, the company hired automobile and self-driving technology experts and has setup a team under Project Titan to develop its autonomous vehicle.

Apple has never formerly acknowledged its work on driverless technology, but rumors have swirled around the company's foray into the increasingly crowded field that includes the likes of Tesla, Google spin-off Waymo and Uber.

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