Correspondence exclusively obtained by the Guardian reveals that Project Titan, Apple's very own self-driving car, is further along than most have suspected, with the company already looking for possible testing locations of the vehicle.
Apple is working on a driverless car in Silicon Valley, and possible testing locations are being scouted within the San Francisco Bay area, as discovered by the documents that the Guardian acquired.
Back in May, a team of engineers from the secretive Special Project group of Apple had a meeting with officials representing the GoMentum Station, which is a former naval base located near San Francisco that has a land area of 2,100 acres. The location is now being transformed into a testing ground with high security for driverless cars.
"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]," wrote Frank Fearon, an engineer for Apple, in the correspondence that was acquired through a public records act request.
Apple refused to issue a comment about the revealed information regarding Project Titan.
The GoMentum Station contains 20 miles of city streets and paved highways that are not accessible to the public and guarded by military personnel. Officials are claiming that the station is the biggest secure testing facility worldwide for tests on connected vehicle and driverless car technologies.
The empty roads of the facility include highways overpasses, railway crossings, tunnels and even cattle grids. This allows companies to test cars in various and realistic situations that the vehicles could experience daily without scrutiny and without placing people at risk.
Companies such as Honda and Mercedes Benz have already done testing sessions on the GoMentum Station, and the security that the former naval base offers should appeal to the secretive plans of Apple.
Apple reportedly has hundreds of its engineers working on automobile technologies in an unnamed building in Sunnyvale, which is just a few miles away from Apple's main complex in Cupertino. While most of the details of Project Titan have been kept under wraps, it seems that Apple's self-driving car is almost ready to be tested as the acquired correspondence, GoMentum Station autonomous vehicles program manager Jack Hall postponed a facility tour for Apple in late May, but noted that the meeting should still push through to keep pace with the testing schedule for the driverless cars.
While there have been previous rumors surrounding Apple's Project Titan, this is the first instance that evidence on the company's self-driving cars has been documented. Back in May, Apple senior VP Jeff Williams noted that the vehicle will be the "ultimate mobile device."
While California said that it will issue permits for testing self-driving cars on the public roads of the state, the process will require Apple to reveal commercial and technical details, which would go against the secretive nature of the company.
According to Randy Iwasaki, the executive director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority which owns the GoMentum Station, a non-disclosure agreement was signed with Apple. The only thing that the company can say is that Apple inquired about the testing facility and that it was interested.
Photo: Håkan Dahlström | Flickr