Apple is significantly intensifying its autonomous driving endeavors in California, with the number of vehicles equipped with autonomous capabilities surging from 22 to 67 within the past year. Public records indicate that Apple’s autonomous cars covered over 450,000 miles in California between December 2022 and November 2023, marking a threefold increase from the previous year.
This notable expansion in testing suggests that Apple is quietly advancing its autonomous ambitions. The increased mileage outpaces other major companies in the autonomous vehicle testing space, with Apple experiencing the most substantial percentage change in testing between 2022 and 2023.
Despite Apple’s traditionally secretive nature, the company’s heightened testing activity in California indicates a significant vote of confidence in automated driving. While the company faces an industry marked by permit losses, lawsuits, recalls, and public frustrations, Apple seems determined to make strides in the autonomous vehicle domain.
Apple’s testing pace, however, appears more deliberate compared to industry leaders like Waymo, owned by Alphabet, which has been offering fully driverless robotaxi rides in San Francisco. Apple, as per reports, has shifted its focus from creating a fully self-driving vehicle to developing driving-assistance features akin to those popularized by Tesla.
Even as autonomous car companies collectively tested over 9 million miles on California roads in the last reporting period, Apple’s cautious approach stands out. The company, despite working on autonomous vehicles for years, still conducts tests with a human driver present. This is in contrast to Waymo, Cruise, and other competitors that have ventured into fully autonomous testing.
Despite concerns and challenges faced by the autonomous vehicle industry, experts see Apple’s increased testing as a substantial market validation for automated driving. While encountering setbacks, the industry is expected to witness progress, driven by machine-learning breakthroughs in autonomous vehicles, in the coming years.