Apple has added more drivers to its autonomous vehicle test program as it continues development of its long-awaited, top-secret first car.
According to macReports, the company has added 17 additional drivers to test its vehicles. A memo from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) claims Apple, as of January 5, 2024, has 162 drivers registered in its program.
It reportedly also recently added two additional vehicles to its fleet, bringing its total to 68.
Apple still has yet to publicly announce it’s developing a car, maintaining a shroud of secrecy over the project. The most recent update was that the car won’t debut until 2026.
The company is currently testing its autonomous vehicle software in vehicles such as the Lexus RX, though it reportedly has yet to apply for its driverless permit. All of its test fleet are operated by humans.
According to macReports, while some manufacturers’ programs have seen a lot of change over the years, Apple’s testing fleet has remained fairly steady aside from a reduction of drivers in July 2023.
It’s a small group of drivers testing autonomous driving technology, however, when compared with other companies.
As of January 5, 2024, California DMV records show Mercedes-Benz is testing 49 vehicles with 226 drivers, Tesla 14 vehicles with 59 drivers, driverless taxi service Waymo 371 vehicles with 664 drivers, and General Motors subsidiary 1015 vehicles with 281 drivers.
When looking at driverless testing programs, Waymo has 333 vehicles being tested. Cruise did have a driverless permit up until October 2023, when it was revoked after a collision with a pedestrian.
In addition to increasing the number of people testing its technology, Apple has also filed a patent in the US that may give us a preview of what its vehicle’s interior layout will look like.
The cabin appears to feature a four-seat configuration with the seats in the front row capable of swivelling around to allow the vehicle to serve as a “mobile office” or “living room”.
The patent outlined an airbag system that would deploy from underneath the seat in the event of an accident.
When the vehicle does eventually debut, Bloomberg reports it’ll cost less than US$100k – but it won’t be fully autonomous as initially intended.
Apple recently added ex-Lamborghini engineer Luigi Taraborrelli to the project.