From a whisper to a roar, the chatter surrounding Apple's secretive Project Titan has amplified by an order of magnitude in recent weeks, with a Sept. 18 report in British newspaper the Guardian about company executives meeting with the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
The tech giant reportedly met with officials from the California DMV to discuss plans for a self-driving car -- a long-rumored project codenamed Titan.
The paper reported that Mike Maletic, a senior legal counsel at Apple, met with Bernard Soriano, the DMV's deputy director, and Stephanie Dougherty, the department's chief of strategic planning, to discuss autonomous vehicle regulation issues.
Intriguingly, Apple's purported quest for a permit to begin testing its alleged self-driving car would lift the veil of secrecy from the project, though so far the DMV has declined to comment on the specifics of its meeting with the company.
California's regulations for the post-testing deployment of autonomous vehicles are currently under development.
The regulations will establish the requirements that manufacturers must meet to certify that their autonomous vehicle has been successfully tested, meets certain safety requirements, and is ready for the general public to operate on public roads.
The California DMV conducted an initial public workshop on the deployment regulations in March 2014, and a second public workshop was conducted at DMV headquarters in January of this year.
That public workshop engaged the interested public in a focused discussion on the requirements of certifications by manufacturers that the autonomous technology can be operated safely on public streets by the general public, and how the department will determine the validity of those certifications.
An earlier report from the Guardian revealed Apple's interest in GoMentum Station, a 5,000-acre, former Navy weapons station in California, which features 20 miles of paved roadway. Other companies have used the location for testing, validation, and commercialization of connected vehicle applications and autonomous vehicle technologies.
With all things Apple, be they smartwatches or self-driving cars, speculation has been running rampant as to exactly what the company is up to, but its tech rivals have also been hard at work developing their own autonomous vehicle concepts.
In an executive move designed to take its self-driving car project from expensive hobbyhorse to potential money-making business, Google has tapped John Krafcik, a former Hyundai CEO and president, to lead its autonomous vehicle division.
In the next few weeks, Google's prototype vehicles will be out navigating the same area north and northeast of downtown Austin, Texas, that its Lexus cars have been driving by themselves for the last couple of months.
A survey of around 3,000 consumers in the United States, China, and Germany, released earlier this month by McKinsey, found consumer interest in self-driving vehicles is high, as long as drivers have the option of taking the wheel when they want to.
Interest is particularly strong among younger drivers who live in cities and those in the world's most traffic-choked metropolises. The report found 93% of Chinese drivers surveyed said they would be interested in a car that would drive itself at least part of the time.