For years, annual iPhone rumors have been forced to compete with similarly hyped whisperings regarding the possibility of an Apple self-driving car. Thanks to an update from the California Department of Motor Vehicles Friday, we now know one thing for sure: Apple has a permit to test autonomous cars in the state.
Apple's name was added to a list of 29 other companies testing self-driving cars in California, Business Insider first reported. Apple joins previously permitted companies Tesla, Google, and a bunch of automakers you have probably already guessed are on the list. In a statement Friday, a California DMV spokesperson said that Apple Inc. had been issued an autonomous vehicle test permit covering "three vehicles, all 2015 Lexus RX450h, and six drivers."
The permit makes it clear that Apple is at least serious about developing self-driving vehicle technology and software, but not necessarily fully committed to making their own car just yet. Multiple publications' attempts at getting a statement from Apple on this latest update resulted in a spokesperson redirecting them to a letter the company sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2016.
"The company is investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation," Apple's November letter to the NHTSA said, according to Mashable. Way back in September 2015, the Wall Street Journal cited people "familiar with the matter" and reported that a 2019 unveiling was being targeted for an Apple-branded vehicle. According to a subsequent report from the New York Times one year later, Apple eventually "shuttered parts of its self-driving car project and laid off dozens of employees."