Documents confirm Apple developing self-driving car

Documents obtained by British newspaper reveal that Apple is already scouting for locations to test self-driving car

Apple is building a self-driving car in Silicon Valley, and is searching for secure locations in the San Francisco Bay area in which to test it, according to documents seen by British newspaper The Guardian.

In May, engineers from Apple’s Special Project group met with officials from GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre former naval base east of San Francisco that is being retooled into a highly-secure testing ground for autonomous vehicles.

Citing correspondence between site officials and Apple engineer Frank Fearon, The Guardian quoted the engineer as saying that Apple “would like to get an understanding of timing and availability for the space”.

Apple declined to comment.

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.

Serious speculation on Apple’s plans surfaced last year, with Apple senior vice-president Jeff Williams describing such an automobile as "the ultimate mobile device."

Google, which has been testing prototypes on the streets of Mountain View, has made the biggest commitment toward building a self-driving vehicle so far. Uber has also been hiring engineers at a furious pace from robotics-focused Carnegie Mellon University, and a number of automakers have been doubling down on driver-assist tech that could ultimately take full control from drivers.

Apple has recently started hiring staff with backgrounds in auto safety and powertrain systems, many of them hailing from Elon Musk's electric car company, Tesla.

The Guardian quoted Fearon as writing GoMentum officials to ask for specifics on how the layout of the area could be used to test autonomous cars in a real-world situation.

GoMentum Station’s empty roads feature everything from highway overpasses and railway crossings to tunnels and cattle grids, which would enable Apple to test vehicles in a variety of realistic everyday situations but without exposing it to scrutiny.