The iPhone of cars? Apple enters self-driving vehicle race

Apple has received California DMV permit for testing self-driving vehicles in California.

"The permit covers three vehicles, all 2015 Lexus RX450h, and six drivers", said the spokesperson to Business Insider.

Chinese tech giant Baidu, which is working on autonomous driving at its California research center, this week announced the acquisition of xPerception, a U.S. startup that provides visual perception software, along with services and devices for people who are visually impaired.

Apple confirmed that it will begin testing self-driving technology in the state, but provided no details.

Apple issued the letter because it is "investing heavily in machine learning and autonomous systems", an Apple spokesman said in an email to AFP at the time.

Apple's self-driving technology is being developed in secret company offices in Sunnyvale, California, a short drive from its main Cupertino campus, Bloomberg News has reported.

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Traditional carmakers such as Honda, Ford and Mercedes-Benz have also taken out permits to test autonomous vehicles in California, according the DMV's Friday release.

After a five-page letter last November from Steve Kenner, Apple's director of product integrity, to NHTSA, the company was under increased speculation that they would enter into the competitive self-driving space. And Apple has been searching for its next act for a while, one that will take it beyond its mainstay phones, tablets and personal computers.

Since Google began its work on self-driving vehicles eight years ago, Waymo's fleet of self-driving cars has logged more than 2 million miles on the road.

Google considers self-driving cars to be a potential new market, while Uber Technologies Inc hopes to eventually eliminate the need for human drivers for its service. It wasn't the first to introduce a digital music player, cellphone, or tablet before its iPod, iPhone and iPad came out.

With $246 billion in cash, Apple also could easily afford to buy technology that accelerates its development of self-driving cars. Neither Apple nor Tesla has given any inkling that they're interested in joining forces, though. This confirms existing speculation that Apple Inc is working on an autonomous auto technology. As per media reports, the company hired automobile and self-driving technology experts and has setup a team under Project Titan to develop its autonomous vehicle.

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