Is Apple self-driving auto software coming? DMV permit suggests so

Apple has not commented - other than to point to its letter late a year ago expressing an interest in the technology.

Ending years of speculation, Apple's late entry into a crowded field was made official Friday with the disclosure that the California Department of Motor Vehicles had awarded a permit for the company to start testing its self-driving auto technology on public roads in the state. And not just in a run-of-the-mill sedan: Apple is testing self-driving vehicles. Uber's permit was recently secured in March, but the company had been conducting rogue trials for a while. The company received a permit from the state of California today (April 14) to test self-driving cars.

In a retrenchment of one of its most ambitious initiatives, Apple has shuttered parts of its self-driving vehicle project and laid off dozens of employees, according to three people briefed on the move who were not allowed to speak about it publicly.

"This does confirm what's always been rumored: that Apple is at least toying with the idea of getting into the autonomous game in some capacity", said Chris Theodore, president of consultancy Theodore & Associates, and a former executive at Ford Motor Co (F) and Chrysler.

Now that it has its permit, the company appears poised to begin testing its software on public roads in California. Instead, the automaker could focus on building the software and hardware to make cars and trucks self-driving.

Although there have been a multitude of reports regarding Apple's secretive Project Titan over the past year, including some that indicated the company had scaled back its autonomous ambitions, the company has remained tight-lipped about its intentions.

Companies that have been issued permits also include Alphabet Inc's Google unit, Ford Motor Co, Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG, Tesla Motors Inc and General Motors Co. This news alone quells one rumor: that Apple was designing its own auto.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple declined to comment, referring to public remarks that it had submitted to federal highway authorities in November on its research into automation. The company is only testing components of a self-driving auto.

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