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Apple expands test driver team for its 'Apple Car' autonomous vehicle project

Apple hires more test drivers for autonomous vehicle project

Following a significant cutback earlier in 2023, Apple has expanded the number of test drivers for its autonomous vehicle project, commonly known as the Apple Car.

Like numerous other projects Apple has undertaken, the Apple Car's development has been underway for nearly a decade. According to data published by the California DMV in March 2023, Apple had registered 66 vehicles and 201 drivers for testing autonomous driving capabilities on public roads, but that reportedly dropped to 145 drivers in April.

However, a new report spotted by macReports claims that the number of drivers has risen again to 152. While that's still around 25% fewer drivers than in March, the fact that the figure has risen at all suggests that Apple is persisting with its car project.

Apple has yet to officially announce that it is working on an Apple Car, but the same new report reveals that it has had to disclose details of a collision. One of Apple's Lexus test vehicles was reportedly rear-ended while stationary at a stop sign in May 2023.

Overall, the AV landscape in California has witnessed significant developments from many firms other than Apple, including the licensing of Mercedes as another manufacturer authorized to deploy driverless vehicles. Mercedes joined an exclusive group in June of only four licensed manufacturers, which includes Nuro, Cruise, and Waymo.

Fleet volumes from the California DMV as of July 7, 2023, via macReports
Fleet volumes from the California DMV as of July 7, 2023, via macReports

However, Apple has yet to apply for a driverless permit.

Initial reports indicated a potential production run for the Apple Car in 2024. However, analysts have cautioned that the nascent state of self-driving technologies might impose limitations on what Apple can ultimately incorporate into its product or potentially lead to delays in its release.

As time progressed, analysts adjusted their predictions to suggest later timelines, extending beyond 2025 in certain instances. Furthermore, there have been reports of employee hiring, departures, shifts in key personnel, and even rumors of the project being put on hold.