Rumours of the possible existence of an Apple car have been making rounds for ages. Over the years, various executives have come and gone, and several carmakers have been tied to the project. And now, there’s further proof that Apple is developing systems for a car thanks to new filings from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
In order to develop its vision for a car of the future, Apple has been testing its automotive driving tech on the streets of California. As part of the testing of these systems, the firm is required to log all miles covered by self-driving cars with the State of California.
The firm does this alongside companies like Waymo and Cruise, which are also developing self-driving cars. Weirdly, Tesla doesn’t worry itself with such paperwork. Instead, it just lets normal people loose on the streets with its latest autonomous driving beta.
But I digress.
Once companies have logged all their miles with the California DMV, the department publishes a report of the miles covered and any incidents encountered along the way. This is the state’s Disengagement Report.
And, according to the latest instalment of this thrilling read, Apple and its fleet of self-driving cars covered more than 20,921 km over the course of 2021.
This year’s Disengagement Report notes Apple has a fleet of 37 cars that are licensed to test out its autonomous driving capabilities. Two of those weren’t tested last year, but the remaining 35 clocked up an impressive 21,359 km of self-driving in 2021.
Along the way, Apple reported 662 incidents where test drivers were forced to take control of the car. That averages out at one disengagement every 32 km.
The reasons for these disengagements vary wildly. Some are for “map discrepancies,” which I’m sure any Apple Maps user will be able to sympathise with.
Other issues test drivers faced included cars not correctly recognising traffic signals, “incorrect predictions” made by the systems, and “not adequately” following driving etiquette.
It’s good to see these issues being ironed out before any car makes it into the hands of your average consumer.
But as Apple has logged more than 20,921 km of autonomous driving, does this mean fleets of Apple cars have been sneaking around California un-noticed?
Not quite, the firm is just testing its self-driving systems, rather than its own car. That means its using ready-made test vehicles to run the systems on.
The Disengagement Report lists the VIN numbers for all the cars Apple runs, and a quick search shows that the tech firm is using a fleet of Lexus RX SUVs to pilot its self-driving capabilities.