Apple expands its self-driving car fleet to 27: report

Keep your eyes peeled for a white Lexus SUV with a weird robotic crown on its head in Silicon Valley.

Apple has expanded its autonomous driving fleet from three last year to 27 in early 2018, Bloomberg reported Thursday. Apple reportedly registered 24 more Lexus RX450h sport-utility vehicles with the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Apple has been beefing up its self-driving car inventory since last July, according to the Verge. Apple added two in July, seven in October, two in November, six in December, and seven in January, reports the Verge.

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Apple’s path to self-driving cars has been a rocky one. In 2014, media reports revealed Apple’s then-secret operation to build a self-driving car called Project Titan. However, by 2016, Project Titan’s wheels began to fall off, as hundreds of employees were reassigned, laid off or left to join other competitors.

In April 2017, Apple received its official permit from California DMV to drive self-driving cars on its roads. Two months later, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company was focusing more on developing the autonomous driving software rather than building a self-driving car from scratch.

“We’re focusing on autonomous systems, and clearly one purpose of autonomous systems is self-driving cars,” said Cook in an exclusive interview with Bloomberg during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose in June. “There are others, and we sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects. It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on.”

In October, MacCallister Higgins, a co-founder of a self-driving startup called Voyage, caught Apple’s self-driving white Lexus in the wild — controlled by the crown equipped with Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensors and radars to detect objects in its vicinity — in the South Bay.

Apple’s fleet is no match for Waymo’s, a Google-owned self-driving car company. Waymo is already testing vehicles in six different states, including with 600 Chrysler vans in Phoenix, Arizona and Detroit, according to Bloomberg.

Earlier this month, a Waymo self-driving car was spotted roaming the streets of San Francisco. 

 

Photo: An Apple logo at a store in Miami Beach, Florida. (Alan Diaz/AP)

 

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