Apple Becomes 30th Company to Gain Regulatory Approval to Begin Testing Self-Driving Cars on Public Roadways in California

Apple has been relatively secretive about many of their big projects, but the cat is basically out of the bag at this point with their self-driving vehicle testing.

On April 14th, Apple joined companies such as Google, Uber, Tesla, NVIDIA, and a couple of dozen more in taking the first steps towards testing self-driving cars out under real-world conditions. While many of the companies included on the California DMV list may only be working with a handful of cars, just to test software, it’s likely Apple is there for something bigger.

There is a good chance that driverless vehicles are going to become a very big business within the next 5-20 years. At a certain point, it just doesn’t become worth it, from a financial or safety point of view, to have someone behind the wheel of a car or truck. Shipping companies are probably going to be among the first to latch on to this technology, opting to use fleet trucks that may cost double what a semi goes for now (top of the line trucks sell for around $130,000), but bringing with it the ability to run nearly 24 hours a day and not paying a driver by the mile.

Outside of trucking, industry think-tank The Boston Consulting Group predicts that drivers in large cities would see an enormous savings using semi-autonomous electric vehicles. Someone who lives and drives around in a large city regularly could cut their transportation costs by at least 60%. These will likely be some of the first adopters of the technology, but they may also skip the entire “semi”-autonomous platform and go straight to fully autonomous.

Moviegoers who watched The Fate of the Furious, which came out last weekend, might remember a scene where Charlize Theron’s character takes control of hundreds of cars with a few strokes of a keyboard. It makes for a good plot device, but it is completely outside the realm of possibility. Smart cars have been hacked in the past, but even a moderate level of encryption would stop anyone outside of state-sponsored actors. Even then, you would have to limit yourself to one specific vehicle at a time. Most of these security holes are easy to fix, they just need to be found before bad actors find them.

It should be very interesting to see what Apple ultimately has in store for consumers when it comes to self-driving vehicles. The size of the company lends itself to endless possibilities, most of which point towards either a complete software system (think autoOS) or they may be jumping into the manufacturing game. Either way, news will probably trickle out soon enough.

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