The news doesn't confirm whether Apple is developing its own driverless vehicle or if it's strictly working on self-driving technology, but it does substantiate rumors of the company looking to join the autonomous-vehicle revolution. Google and Uber have them, and the latter also started testing self-driving cars with its Pittsburgh customers late previous year.
Apple wants a piece of this action, but it's got a lot of competition: 29 other companies have autonomous vehicle testing permits in California. The permit was granted on April 14, 2017. It is still not clear what the end goal of Apple is in the auto segment.
But wait. Didn't Apple scrap its Project Titan (the one it never acknowledged until it said it was not going to make any self-driving cars) and start focusing only on the software part of autonomous driving technology?
Chinese tech giant Baidu, which is working on autonomous driving at its California research center, this week announced the acquisition of xPerception, a USA startup that provides visual perception software, along with services and devices for people who are visually impaired.
Apple will soon take its self-driving vehicle software platform to public streets for the first time, a major step that gets the world's largest technology company into a crowded race to reshape transportation.
Apple has remained secretive about its self-driving project. This is the first time Apple has received approval for such testing.
The secretive company that it is, little is known about the autonomous skills of Apple's software, but in a letter a year ago to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Apple said it was "investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation". The publication reports that the company's permit covers three 2015 Lexus RX450h SUVs and 6 drivers who will be behind the wheel.
Apple has long kept its interest in self-driving technology under the radar.
Apple was not immediately available for comment.