Apple Prepping To Test Its Self-Driving Cars On Public Roads

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Despite major staffing shakeups in its autonomous driving project last year, Apple is reportedly gearing up to unleash cars equipped with its driverless technology on California’s public streets.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles’ newly-updated list of carmakers and tech companies that are approved to test autonomous vehicles in the state now includes Apple.

Sources close to the matter tell Bloomberg that Apple’s Project Titan team will soon start testing self-driving software on public roads in California.

Because the company hasn’t built the electric car it originally wanted to, the tech will be tested in existing cars. Specifically, the permit covers three 2015 Lexus RX540h SUVs, and six drivers.

As required by the state, the vehicles will each have a person behind the wheel to monitor the trips, just like the humans employed by Google’s Waymo and Uber in testing.

And once Apple does start testing, it will have to file Disengagement Reports that detail how many miles driverless vehicles have traveled as part of the state’s Autonomous Vehicle Testing Program. Reports for 2017 won’t be due until January 1, 2018, however. (You can access all companies’ 2016 reports here)

Apple declined to comment on the report but referred to a statement the company made last year after it wrote a letter [PDF] to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the agency’s proposed policy for driverless vehicles. In that letter, Apple said it felt “new entrants” into testing on public roads “should be treated equally.”

“There are many potential applications for these technologies, including the future of transportation, so we want to work with NHTSA to help define the best practices for the industry,” Apple said in December.