SAN FRANCISCO – Apple’s self-driving car effort, code-named Project Titan, is more reality than rumor, according to documents obtained by the British newspaper The Guardian.
Engineers working for the Cupertino-based tech hardware giant met in May with officials from GoMentum Station, a former naval base east of San Francisco that is being retooled into a highly secure testing ground for autonomous vehicles.
Citing correspondence between site officials and Apple engineer Frank Fearon – who previously worked on a self-stabilizing motorcycle for the Bay Area start-up Lit Motors – the British newspaper’s report quotes Fearon as saying that Apple “would like to get an understanding of timing and availability for the space.”
Apple declined to comment on the report. Serious speculation that it might be working on its own self-driving car first surfaced last year. While the move would represent a big leap beyond making smartphones and computers, Apple senior vice president Jeff Williams has echoed the sentiments of many in the tech industry by calling the automobile “the ultimate mobile device.”
Google has made the biggest commitment to date toward building a viable autonomous vehicle. It has been testing various prototypes on the streets of Mountain View for years. More recently, Uber has been hiring engineers at a furious pace from robotics-focused Carnegie Mellon University, and a number of automakers have been doubling down on driver-assist tech that ultimately could take full control from drivers.
In recent months, Apple has been hiring staffers with backgrounds in auto safety and powertrain systems, many of them from Elon Musk’s electric car company, Tesla.
In The Guardian‘s report, Fearon is quoted as writing GoMentum officials asking for specifics on how the layout of the area could be used to test autonomous cars in a real-world situation. Google has set up a similarly focused facility in California, while in July the University of Michigan opened MCity, a $10-million, 32-acre faux citadel for automakers.
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