What to Know About Apple Self-Driving Car Development Efforts

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What to Know About Apple Self-Driving Car Development Efforts

Apple’s autonomous car ambitions are among the worst-kept secrets in Silicon Valley. The company has for years been rumored to be working on car technology, and some of its executives have even hinted at it. Apple has hired hundreds of car engineers and there are reports all over California of secret teams of Apple employees working on vehicle technology. Those rumors were bolstered April 14, when the California Department of Motor Vehicles announced that Apple was awarded a permit to test self-driving cars in the state. Exactly what Apple has planned is unknown, but that it will begin testing cars seems to confirm many of the rumors. This eWEEK slide show will discuss Apple’s rumored car ambitions and the things the company reportedly is doing to hit the road.

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Is It Actually a Car?

When Apple Car rumors surfaced, they were around Apple working on a vehicle. Neighbors of Apple-owned buildings said they heard car engines revving and others said Apple’s hiring of car design engineers indicated the company is working on a vehicle. Apple, of course, hasn’t confirmed it.

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Or Is It Self-Driving Car Technology?

Last year, news broke that Apple’s car ambitions may have changed. The company reportedly laid off some of its design folks in favor of people who could work on car technology. Reports at the time said Apple was shifting from a carmaker model to be a technology supplier to carmakers.

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Apple Is Poaching Tesla Talent

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk has said on numerous occasions that Apple has been poaching his company’s talent. He’s gone so far as to call Apple the “Tesla Graveyard.” According to Musk and other critics, Apple is stealing Tesla employees to recreate the electric car maker’s success.

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Augmented Reality a Critical Feature?

Several Apple patents have surfaced in recent months discussing augmented-reality technology for cars. The patents describe virtual elements located on the dash and windshield that provide contextual information about the car, where people are traveling and more.

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Apple's iOS Is at the Core of Its Car Technology

Apple’s iOS is said to be the foundation for the company’s car technology. Apple is rumored to be building a car operating system that’s based on iOS and runs third-party apps to enhance the user experience. Apple also will bring its own apps, such as Apple Music, to the vehicle, according to reports.

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Autonomous Cars Seem Likely

It’s perhaps no surprise Apple is reportedly working on self-driving car technology. Autonomous vehicles are slated to hit the road within the next few years from companies including Alphabet’s Waymo, and Apple reportedly wants to be another provider. Exactly how the technology will work, however, remains to be seen.

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Rumors Say Apple Vehicles Will Be All Electric

Apple is one of the more outspoken companies in the world about its responsibility to the environment, and the company is investing heavily in renewable technologies. So perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that rumors suggest Apple is planning clean tech for its vehicle technology, ditching gas for electric.

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Apple Has Looked Into Acquisitions

Apple has been rumored to be considering a major car acquisition. The company reportedly held informal acquisition talks with ultra-luxury carmaker McLaren last year. Those talks apparently went nowhere, but Apple could make a major acquisition in the coming years.

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It’s Still Years Away

Apple has been working on car technology for years, but several reports suggest Apple is still years away from offering the technology and might not be part of the first wave of companies offering self-driving car options.

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Even Apple Doesn’t Know if It Will Build a Car Tech Business

There’s also the chance all this is for nothing. Apple reportedly will decide this year whether to move forward with its car technology or shelve the idea. If the project makes encouraging progress the company will likely move forward. If not, it might put the idea on ice.

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