Apple’s secretive car program came grinding to a halt last year, but the tech giant never gave up on the self-driving car race. And now it’s taking a step forward, with California regulators announcing Friday that Apple has received a permit to test autonomous vehicles on state roads.
It’s the first peep from Apple on the self-driving car front since December, when a letter to federal regulators from Apple’s director of product integrity, Steve Kenner, emerged. Kenner wrote the letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to comment on the agency’s new self-driving car guidelines, and said Apple is “investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.”
FApparently, Apple wasn’t kidding around.
“Today, April 14, 2017, the California Department of Motor Vehicles issued Apple Inc. an autonomous vehicle test permit,” the DMV said in a statement to Jalopnik.
California mandates that any company looking to test AVs must apply for an autonomous driving permit. Any company who receives a permit must file an annual report on its “disengagement rate”—that is, the number of times a driver had to re-assume control of the vehicle.
To what extent Apple plans to test on California roads isn’t clear; the company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But the DMV said Apple’s permit covers three vehicles—all 2015 Lexus RX450h—and six drivers are approved to sit behind the wheel. California recently proposed new guidelines that would allow for vehicles without a driver on the road.