Ford, which is also putting a lot of effort into its autonomous vehicle efforts, is testing its driverless auto on its own test tracks rather than on public roads. It is believed that the meeting took place in order to discuss the development of autonomous regulations. Apple would be required to obtain an Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permit from the California DMV to test autonomous vehicles on public roads, which Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Google, Tesla Motors, Nissan, BMW, Honda and others have already done.
According to a report from The Guardian Friday, Apple legal counsel Mike Maletic had an hour long meeting with the Bernard Soriano, the DMV’s deputy director, Stephanie Dougherty, the department’s chief of enterprise planning and performance, and Brian Soublet, who is the DMV’s deputy director and chief legal counsel. It was reported this past summer that Apple’s Special Project group met with officials at GoMentum Station, a 2,100 acre former navel base in San Francisco thought to now be a secure testing ground for new vehicles.
“Candidly, the regulations that get developed in California could be utilised by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration when it is in a position to develop federal regulations”, said Soriano at an industry event last week. Supposedly nothing definitive has come of those talks, but it’s likely that GoMentum could be a location where Apple tests its automotive product.
If Apple does stay involved in California regulations, it could reveal more details about plans for the cars, The Guardian said, since the state’s permitting process requires strict disclosures.
The Guardian suggests the Apple vehicle is “almost ready for public view”, but this is a dubious conclusion. Also, permit applicants will have to explain how each driver will cope with potential malfunctions and how they will report any incidents where the vehicle might hand controls back over to the driver.
Nonetheless, Apple is certainly focusing its research on some heavy-hitters.
Among the people who think Apple stands to benefit from entering the autonomous vehicle market is the company’s co-founder Steve Wozniak. In August, city building inspectors complained that getting access had “been challenging due to the need to keep doing business and [the] secrecy of equipment in certain areas”.