Apple now has a permit to test drive autonomous vehicles on public roads in California, which is a pretty clear sign the company is still doing something with its not so secret car project dubbed Titan.
The special permit lets Apple retrofit three 2015 Lexus SUVs with the hardware and software necessary to drive themselves, according to the Wall Street Journal. It also allows for six people who will ride in the cars and take over driving when necessary.
Assuming Apple has been conducting successful Project Titan tests on closed tracks, the next logical step it to move to public roads where there are far more variables for a car to cope with. Does that mean Apple is a step closer to introducing its own self driving car? Maybe.
Apple reportedly scaled back its car plans late in 2016 under the guidance of project leader Bob Mansfield to focus on software for autonomous vehicles. The team still has about 1,000 people, although Apple isn’t confirming anything—including that there even is a Project Titan.
Assuming Apple is working on software only, tests still need to happen. That means outfitting cars with the necessary hardware—like three Lexus SUVs—and putting them on the road. Those tests need to happen on closed tracks and public roads, which fits nicely with the permit California’s Department of Motor Vehicles just gave Apple.
It also fits with Apple making its own car. Testing the hardare and software elements for assisted and autonomous driving can happen on different cars, and it keeps Apple’s own designs secret.
As TMO’s Bryan Chaffin said, it’s Schrödinger’s Car. It’s a complete car and it’s just software for other cars until Apple says otherwise.
The permit doesn’t do anything to clear up exactly what Apple’s autonomous car plans are. It does, however, tell us Project Titan is still moving along. We just don’t know what direction it’s heading.