Documents confirm Apple is building self-driving car, Project Titan further along than many suspect

“Apple is building a self-driving car in Silicon Valley, and is scouting for secure locations in the Bay Area to test it, The Guardian has learned,” Mark Harris reports for The Guardian. “Documents obtained by The Guardian show the oft-rumoured Apple car project appears to be further along than many suspected.”

“In May, engineers from Apple’s secretive Special Project group met with officials from GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre former naval base near San Francisco that is being turned into a high-security testing ground for autonomous vehicles,” Harris reports. “In correspondence obtained by The Guardian under a public records act request, Apple engineer Frank Fearon wrote: ‘We would… like to get an understanding of timing and availability for the space, and how we would need to coordinate around other parties who would be using [it].'”

“Details of the project are still unknown but it seems that Apple has a self-driving car almost ready for the road. In late May, Jack Hall, program manager for autonomous vehicles at GoMentum Station, wrote to Fearon to postpone a tour of the facility but noted: ‘We would still like to meet in order to keep everything moving and to meet your testing schedule,'” Harris reports. “Apple has been rumoured to be working on a self-driving electric car, codenamed Project Titan, but this is the first time its existence has been documented.”

Scenes from Gomentum Station's Autonomous Vehicle Program (source: Gomentum Station website)
Scenes from Gomentum Station’s Autonomous Vehicle Program (source: Gomentum Station website)

 
“Documents seen by The Guardian reveal that Apple’s automotive team is housed in a low-profile building several miles from the company’s glamourous new Cupertino campus, which is currently under construction,” Harris reports. “The Sunnyvale building was leased in 2014, and was subsequently modified by Apple to include several lab and workshop spaces, as well as beefed-up security and access card readers, city permits show.”

“When engineers from Tesla Motors tried to tour GoMentum Station in April, armed soldiers at the base refused entry to foreign-born workers and a manager who would not divulge his social security number. ‘At this point, I’ll retract our interest in this test site until the process is worked out,’ he huffed in an email to GoMentum Station’s Jack Hall,” Harris reports. “Such high security might not suit all car makers, but Apple should feel right at home.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Well, this certainly punctuates a sleepy Friday in the middle of August!

The effort is obviously very real. Whether Apple brings anything to market or not is the question. Apple, when operating properly, will not enter a market without being able to offer something unique, something that moves the category forward. And, the company has more than enough cash to fund several such large scale exploratory projects in the works, even if most, or even all, of them never bear fruit.

When Apple looks at what categories to enter, we ask these kinds of questions: What are the primary technologies behind this? What do we bring? Can we make a significant contribution to society with this? If we can’t, and if we can’t own the key technologies, we don’t do it. That philosophy comes directly from [Steve Jobs] and it still very much permeates the place. I hope that it always will.Apple CEO Tim Cook, March 18, 2015

If Apple does make the move into vehicles, traditional vehicle makers should be very, very afraid.

BTW: The TV show Mythbusters have used the station several times testing myths involving fuel efficiency.

More info: Gomentum Station’s Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Program

SEE ALSO:
Apple Car development proceeds apace – July 27, 2015
Apple hires veteran Fiat Chrysler auto industry executive – July 20, 2015
What’s up with Carl Icahn’s sudden obsession with the Apple Car? – May 18, 2015
Survey: 77% of hybrid or electric vehicle owners would likely buy an Apple Car – May 13, 2015
Apple’s ‘Project Titan’ could reshape the auto world – February 22, 2015
Apple Car: Forget ‘electric,’ think hydrogen fuel cells – February 20, 2015
Meet Steve Zadesky, the reported leader of Apple’s ‘Project Titan’ – February 17, 2015
Forget the rumor: Apple will never build cars – February 17, 2015
The real battle Apple is waging in autos – February 17, 2015
O’Leary: Yes, give me the Apple car – February 17, 2015
Will Apple become a car maker or a platform/content aggregator? – February 17, 2015
An Apple Car is exactly what investors want – February 17, 2015
Apple’s electric car dreams may bring auto industry nightmares – February 17, 2015
Jean-Louis Gassée: The fantastic Apple Car is a fantasy – February 16, 2015
Apple is already positioned to be a car company in many ways – February 16, 2015
Why Tim Cook would want to build an Apple Car – February 14, 2015
Apple working on self-driving electric car, source says – February 14, 2015
Apple’s project ‘Titan’ gears up to challenge Tesla in electric cars – February 13, 2015
Apple’s next big thing: The Apple Car? – February 13, 2015
Apple hiring auto engineers and designers – February 13, 2015
Apple working with Intelligent Energy on fuel cell technology for mobile devices, sources say – July 14, 2014
North Carolina regulators approve Apple’s 4.8-megawatt fuel cell facility at Maiden data center – May 23, 2012
New aerial images of Apple’s planned NC fuel cell, solar farms published – April 7, 2012
Apple’s massive fuel cell energy project to be largest in the U.S. – April 4, 2012
Apple patent application reveals next-gen fuel cell powered Macs and iOS devices – December 22, 2011
Apple patent app details highly-advanced hydrogen fuel cells to power portable devices – October 20, 2011

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz,” “Denis,” “Jeff.L,” and “MovieManPDX” for the heads up.]

39 Comments

    1. I can understand Apple’s desire to use their skills and attack the most complex electronic consumer product, the automobile.

      Making all the components and selling a complex bunch of electronics running a car is easy.

      I have concerns when those components stop working. I have already seen what happens when one critical component causes a car to stop.

      If Apple does a car, I hope redundant systems and systemic isolation of non-critical electronics is done, keeping them from the critical driving systems.

      To date, I’m not so impressed when I see systems that aren’t “failsafe” all the way from the overly expensive and hackable “car keys” to engines that stop when one sensor or one cell in a battery goes out.

      I know Apple could do it, but I don’t know if they will.

      1. There will be three models, with either 16, 64 or 128 mile battery capacity, and the batteries aren’t user replaceable. The charging cable will be “improved” and need replacing yearly, and the owners manual will only be available through iTunes. I just can’t wait to get the special “RED” edition, which will only cost $25,000 more than the $180,000 gold model. Wonder how long the lines will be at the Apple Stores for these awesome iCars?

        1. I’m assuming that the charging cable reference is to Apple switching form dock connector to lightning interface.

          For those still pissed about to; dock was introduced 13 years ago, with first iPod. Most of you complaining weren’t in high school yet.

          It was replaced by lightning after ten years of service, three years ago. iPhones 5, 5s and 6 all have it, and there’s every indication that the upcoming model will have it. So, dock connector worked through ten years of iPods and five models of iPhone. Lightning is on its (upcoming) fourth iPhone model.

          Exactly how long should apple wait before improving their interface in order to avoid pissing you off?

            1. It was quite clear it was a joke, but it was at the expense of Apple for apparently doing thing that piss people off (non-replaceable batteries, changing the charging port on mobile devices, etc). It just wasn’t terribly amusing, as some of its sarcasm was pointed at things that simply weren’t even remotely correct (product RED devices cost the same as other products, for example).

              The joke would have worked much better had it been about legitimate grievances, rather than made-up.

    1. If I were Apple, you wouldn’t get to own it. Here’s my baseless speculation:

      Apple will contract with thriving car factories like BMW and/or the foundering Midwestern factories to build a massive fleet of Apple cars. They won’t sell them. Rather, you’ll subscribe to the  Car service, pull out your phone or watch, and say, “Siri, take me to the Pier Hotel in Newport Beach. I need room for three passengers and some luggage.” Then the appropriate car will show up wherever you happen to be, and pick you up. It will drop you off and drive away. It will play your music during the ride. If you drink from the mini-bar it will be charged to Apple Pay.

      If you commute to work, you’ll just set that up as a recurring round trip.

       car will roll out one city at a time around the world, as traffic laws evolve.

      iCal it. It’s going to happen.

      1. Apple may want to avoid a Taxi service and besides, it must be clean from the last passenger(s). I will imagine it is not what Sir Ive’s and Marc have in mind for Apple. Time will tell though.

      2. Now that does make the driverless car make sense. In particular it means the fleet can remain under the control of Apple or more likely one of their certified agents, like a fleet operator licensed by Apple who can make sure those vehicles are kept in tip top condition at all times, because no one can remotely take a risk with such vehicles not being properly and regularly serviced, which would be a massive danger if they were self owned as most cars are today.

  1. I don’t get the “freedom old information” bit from the Guardian. That only works when citizens are getting something from the government, and private company just tells you to go to hell. Suspicious since the acreage is a “former” government installation.

      1. Nah, you’re still right. Your email to me isn’t of public record, and won’t be released without a court order, which this request is not. I’ve had a gov. agency (DOJ or IRS, iirc) contact me requesting files out of our office about a sale by one of our clients. I declined (look up Graham Leach Bliley), knowing that they would be back in touch within hours with a subpoena. I was right, and had the file ready to go. I don’t believe this would ever be the case here, though.

        Now, if it were *still* a government site, that would be different entirely. But I still don’t see “correspondence” being released based on it.

    1. The Navy is expected to begin transferring the former Concord Naval Weapons Station property early next year, about 1,400 acres to Concord and 2,700 acres to the East Bay Regional Park District.. Until then, I guess it’s still US government property.

      I’m 20 miles from the site. Maybe it’s time to spring for that DJI Phantom Quadcopter.

  2. The curved glass display described in an earlier post may very well be for a car and not a TV. Particularly if it has the “heads-up” qualities mentioned in the article.

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