The initial details of tech giant Apple’s first foray into the realm of autonomous driving systems have emerged via public record requests surrounding the company’s permit applications to the US state of California.
Still a long way off the often mooted all-Apple ‘iCar’ that has been suggested previously, Business Insider reveals instead that the unlikely combination of a Lexus RX 450h and a Logitech video gaming wheel and pedal set mark Apple’s first step into vehicle control systems.
As cartoonish as it sounds, the Apple Autonomous System is the genesis of a potential multi-billion dollar revenue stream for Apple, and will help bring the company up to speed with Google’s Waymo self-driving program, as well as OEM systems from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors and other carmakers.
Californian law states that for vehicles to be tested on public roads under its permit program a human driver must be in the vehicle, and must be able to assume control of the vehicle at any stage, overriding the autonomous system.
Training documents provided to Apple staff indicate potential system failures like the car not following lane markings, not following its indicated direction, or unable to maintain its speed – and the recommended course of action, usually assuming control of steering or braking to assume manual control.
Images provided with the documents show that rather than using the factory installed (and physically connected) steering wheel and brake pedal, Apple has fitted a second steering wheel and pedal set in the back seat, from computer peripheral supplier Logitech, tapping into the by-wire driving systems developed by Apple, not Lexus.
The permit application documents deal with the safety aspects and rules of human intervention, but don’t divulge technical details of Apple’s systems, sensors, connectivity, or other changes to the Lexus vehicles nominated for the trial fleet.
Further details about Apple’s automotive program, including the likelihood of an Apple-branded car or EV are still (as is so often the case from the tech giant) shrouded in mystery, but with public testing about to occur more details of Apple’s plan are sure to follow in short order.
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