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In a surprising move, Apple has increased the number of test drivers for its ambitious autonomous vehicle project, widely referred to as the Apple Car. This development comes on the heels of a significant cutback earlier this year, indicating that Apple remains committed to its long-standing automotive ambitions.
Similar to many of Apple’s groundbreaking initiatives, the development of the Apple Car has been underway for nearly a decade. In March 2023, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) released data revealing that Apple had registered an impressive fleet of 66 vehicles and enlisted 201 drivers for testing autonomous driving capabilities on public roads. However, this number plummeted to 145 drivers in April, causing some uncertainty regarding the project’s future.
According to a recent report highlighted by macReports, there is no evidence that the number of test drivers has rebounded to 152. Although this figure represents a reduction of approximately 25% compared to March, the fact that Apple has increased its driver count suggests that the tech giant remains resolute in pursuing its ambitious car project.
While Apple has not officially confirmed the existence of the Apple Car, the same report reveals a concerning incident involving one of Apple’s test vehicles. In May 2023, an Apple-owned Lexus vehicle equipped with autonomous capabilities was reportedly rear-ended while stationary at a stop sign. This incident underscores the challenges and risks associated with testing self-driving technology.
The autonomous vehicle (AV) landscape in California has witnessed substantial progress, with numerous companies making significant strides in the field. In a noteworthy development, Mercedes recently obtained the necessary licensing to deploy driverless vehicles, joining an exclusive group of only four authorized manufacturers. This select group includes industry leaders such as Nuro, Cruise, and Waymo.
Surprisingly, Apple has yet to apply for a driverless permit, suggesting that the company may have a unique approach or strategy in mind for its autonomous vehicle project.
Initial reports hinted at a potential production run for the Apple Car as early as 2024. However, industry analysts have cautioned that the nascent state of self-driving technologies could impose limitations on what Apple can ultimately incorporate into its product, potentially leading to delays in its release. As a result, revised predictions now suggest later timelines, extending beyond 2025 in some cases.
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Moreover, there have been ongoing reports of employee hiring, departures, and significant shifts in key personnel within Apple’s car division. These developments, coupled with rumors of the project being put on hold, indicate that Apple is carefully navigating the complex landscape of autonomous vehicles to ensure the success of its future automotive endeavor.
With Apple’s recent expansion of test drivers, it’s clear that the company remains dedicated to realizing its vision of an autonomous vehicle. As the Apple Car project continues to evolve, industry watchers eagerly anticipate further updates and announcements from the tech giant.