Apple's driverless car ambitions confirmed

Documents confirming Apple's driverless car ambitions have been acquired by the Guardian.

The self-driving car venture, codenamed Project Titan, is further along than initially suspected with the tech giant scouting the San Francisco Bay area for a secure location to test the vehicle.

According to the documents, which the Guardian received under a public records act request, Apple's engineers met with officials from the 2,100-acre former naval base near San Francisco, GoMentum Station, in May to turn the location into a secure testing ground.

Correspondence from Apple engineer, Frank Fearon, obtained by the Guardian reads: "We would…like to get an understanding of timing and availability for the space, and how we would need to coordinate around outer parties who would be using [it]."

The GoMentum Station is closed to the public, guarded by the military and praised by officials as "the largest secure test facility in the world" for the "testing validation and commercialisation of connected vehicles (CV) applications and autonomous vehicles (AV) technologies to define the next generation of transportation network infrastructure."

Mercedes-Benz and Honda have both uses the site in the past to carry out experiments with their self-driving cars.

Apple has long been rumoured to be working on a driverless car but this is the first time it has been documented. Apple's senior vice president Jeff Williams has previously deemed the driverless car the "ultimate mobile device" and confirmed the company was "exploring a lot of different markets…[in which] we think we can make a difference."

Randy Iwasaki, executive director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, owner of the GoMentum Station, confirmed it had signed a non-disclosure with Apple, adding "we can't tell you anything other than they've come in and they're interested."

In February ex GM chief, Dan Akerson, warned against Apple's plans to move into the auto industry claiming people who don't ever operate in the auto industry "don't understand and have a tendency to underestimate" adding Apple had "no idea what they're getting into."

Google, Tesla, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and several other manufacturers have been issued permits by the California department of motor vehicles to test self-driving cars on public roads, something notoriously secretive Apple is unlikely to do.

In March, The Drum tackled the driverless car industry with a special issue of the magazine which is available to purchase from The Drum Store.

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