Apple’s first self-driving car spotted on the road in Silicon Valley

26251083984_405189cae1_o

Apple Inc.’s on-again, off-again self-driving car project has finally hit the ground running.

A test vehicle from the iPhone maker was spotted on a Silicon Valley road earlier this week. The vehicle, a white Lexus RX450h SUV, emerged from an Apple facility this week and was kitted out with an array of sensors, according to Bloomberg. From the photo, the Lexus appears to be fitted with standard third-party sensors and hardware, including a Velodyne-made LIDAR sensor, two radar units and a number of cameras.

News that Apple was set to start testing self-driving vehicles emerged earlier this month when the company received regulatory permission from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test self-driving vehicles. The license covers three 2015 Lexus RX450h hybrids and six drivers, indicating that Apple’s testing program would be limited.

Apple’s attempts to develop a self-driving vehicle date back 2014 with a program later called “Project Titan.” It gained a “committed project” status in 2015 with a target delivery date of 2019. In October, the project was said to be in trouble after a report claimed that hundreds of members of the car team, which originally comprised around 1,000 people, had been reassigned, let go or had left the project of their own volition in previous months. That report also noted that the remaining members of the team had been given a deadline of the end 2017 to prove the feasibility of the self-driving system they are building, after which Apple would make a final decision on whether the project should continue.

The fact that Apple now has a car on the road for testing purposes is a positive sign that the project is heading in the right direction. But as Uber Technologies Inc. has demonstrated, building a reliable, self-driving driving vehicle is no easy task, even when allegedly using technology stolen from more successful competitors

Image: automobileitalia/Flickr