Expectations that Apple is building a car are developing a similar sense of momentum to those expectations we saw before Apple announced the iPod, iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch, with a UK report claiming the company now seeks a testing facility for its autonomous vehicle.
The Guardian claims Apple’s special projects team met with officials from the high security GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre former naval base near San Francisco in May. Apple is searching for places in which it can test its Project Titan vehicle.
The newspaper managed to access correspondence relating to the meeting with a Freedom of Information request, which cites an Apple engineer who claims: “We would ... like to get an understanding of timing and availability for the space, and how we would need to coordinate around other parties who would be using [it].”
The city of Concord, Calif. recently agreed to allow the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) to test emerging vehicle technology at the Concord Naval Weapons Station, which is used to test other M2M solutions, including smart city infrastructure.
Honda and Mercedes-Benz are already testing vehicles on the site, which will be made available for only up to five automakers and 15 other companies.
The venue simulates an urban environment, including railroad crossings, parking lots, curved roads, tunnels and city streets (there’s a good collection of images here).
Randy Iwasaki, CCTA executive director and owner of GoMentum Station, said that due to a non-disclosure agreement with Apple he could not reveal anything more than that Apple had expressed an interest.
In recent months, Apple Senior Vice President Jeff Williams called the car “the ultimate mobile device,” while Apple designer Marc Newson concedes, “There is certainly vast opportunity in that area to be more intelligent.”
These latest disclosures follow a flurry of high-level meetings between Apple top brass and top tier car makers -- Cook reportedly toured BMW’s i3 electric car assembly line in Germany last year.
A Financial Times report this year claimed managers from Apple's iPhone division had been assigned to the car project, thought to be based in Sunnyvale (Apple Insider claims this is situated at SixtyEight Research)
A Wall Street Journal report claimed Steve Zadesky, a former Ford engineer, has been charged with assembling and leading a 1,000-strong project team. The team so far also includes a former head of Mercedes-Benz's Silicon Valley R&D lab and autonomous vehicle researcher, Paul Furgale. Recruits also come from Tesla and battery innovator, A123 as well as across Apple and other car firms.
"The rumors about the Apple Car is a sign that the auto industry is in a process of upheaval. The car will become part of the Internet of things and we want to be part of that.”
On the map
We already know to expect the first “self-driving in traffic jams” cars on roads next year, with truly autonomous vehicles before the end of the decade. By 2024, Analysys Mason expects 89% of new cars will include embedded connectivity.
However, as I warned in this report, cybercrme and security, maintenance costs, privacy, insurance and legal challenges all need to be resolved before connected intelligence truly takes command of the road – though it is to be hoped that when driving an Apple Car you won’t be subjected to roadside ads that match your preferences and demographic state.
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