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Apple's Project Titan Is Getting Closer To Reality

A newly published report in the Guardian suggests that not only is Apple planning a self-driving car, but that the so-called Project Titan prototype is ready for testing.
New York Auto Show: Cool Cars With Hot Tech
New York Auto Show: Cool Cars With Hot Tech
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Documents revealed by British newspaper The Guardian indicate the long-rumored self-driving car program by Apple, codenamed Project Titan, is indeed a reality.

The Guardian report shows 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 (CV) applications and autonomous vehicles (AV) technologies.

"We would ... like to get an understanding of timing and availability for the space, and how we would need to coordinate around other parties who would be using [it]," Frank Fearon, an Apple engineer, wrote in the document obtained by The Guardian. "We are hoping to see a presentation on the ... testing grounds with a layout, photos, and a description of how the various areas of the grounds could be used."

Jack Hall, program manager for autonomous vehicles at GoMentum Station, wrote to Fearson in May saying a tour of the facility would have to be postponed, but that the company was "working to keep everything moving and to meet your testing schedule," which The Guardian understood to mean Apple has a prototype ready for the road.

Apple declined to comment on the report when reached by The Guardian. Randy Iwasaki, executive director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA), owner of GoMentum Station, could offer little more information.

"We had to sign a non-disclosure agreement with Apple," Iwasaki told The Guardian. "We can't tell you anything other than they've come in and they're interested."

Titan still hasn't been officially acknowledged by Apple, despite reports that Apple has hired hundreds of new employees to explore the venture. In July, Doug Betts, a former global quality executive at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, reportedly joined Apple. The company has even reportedly reached out to workers at Tesla, Elon Musk's electric car company.

In partnership with the CCTA, automobile manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz and Honda have tested and validated AV technology at the Concord Naval Weapons Station (CNWS) Test facility in Contra Costa.

In July, CCTA announced Honda researchers are using the facility to test automated driving technologies using modified versions of its luxury brand Acura's RLX sedan. New prototype sensors and cameras have been added to the vehicle.

[ Autonomous vehicles involve trial and error. Read about Google's problems with self-driving cars. ]

Those sensors were tested alongside an extensive array of forward, reverse, and corner sensors that enable a suite of AcuraWatch safety and driver-assistive technologies on the production-model RLX.

According to a report published in July by Transparency Market Research, 64.4 million on-road electric vehicles will be sold globally by 2019, with revenue expected to top $271 billion in the same period.

While Apple would certainly have plenty of competition -- Nissan, General Motors, Tesla, Honda, and Toyota all have AV projects in the works -- one well-known player said he welcomes the challenge.

"I certainly hope Apple gets into the car business," Tesla's Musk reportedly said on a company earnings call in May. "That would be great."