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The race to develop fully autonomous fleets of self-driving vehicles has attracted some surprising names from far outside the auto industry. Many of the biggest names in the technology and internet sectors are developing either the necessary infrastructure for autonomous vehicles or autonomous vehicles themselves in attempt to disrupt the auto industry’s dominance of, well, the auto industry. These companies still rely on production model vehicles for use in their fleets, however. For now. At any rate, Apple, one of the largest names – if not the largest – in technology continues to expand its fleet of autonomous vehicles and prove its capable of shaking up any technology sector it wants. According to one recent report, Apple has close to thirty fully autonomous vehicles roaming around public streets. Can Apple do for the autonomous vehicle what it did for the smartphone?
According to a recent report by Bloomberg, Apple has expanded its fleet to twenty-seven vehicles by registering twenty-four new Lexus RX450h SUVs. That’s a huge jump up from the three it registered early last year. The company has been particularly tight-lipped about its autonomous vehicle program, and the new registrations only became known after the California Department of Motor Vehicles emailed a statement to Bloomberg confirming the newly registered vehicles.
Apple began its self-driving vehicle program in 2016 under the name “Project Titan” and initially intended to develop its own vehicle. I guess Apple’s engineers quickly realized that automobiles are much more difficult to build from the ground up than a smartphone, and abandoned their initial idea in favor of developing autonomous systems for existing vehicles.
While Apple’s recent expansion is a significant increase for the Silicon Valley computing giant, the company has a long way to go before it catches up to the likes of Google, who now operates over 600 minivans in Phoenix, Arizona alone. Given that Apple is developing autonomous systems and not autonomous fleets themselves, twenty-seven is likely enough. For now.