Apple's efforts to build a self-driving car may be real and far enough along in terms of development for the company to be testing cars, according to recent reports.
In May Apple executives reportedly met with officials from the GoMentum Station, a massive former naval base close to San Francisco that is currently being turned into a testing place for autonomous cars.
The base itself has around 20 miles of paved highways and streets, and s closed to the public with the military guarding it. This makes it the largest secure test facility and is used for "testing validation and commercialization of connected vehicle (CV) applications and autonomous vehicles (AV) technologies to define the next generation of transportation network infrastructure," according to officials.
Reportedly, Frank Fearon, an engineer at Apple, wrote in an email to GoMentum that "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]." In another email, an official from GoMentum delayed a tour of the base, but said that "We would still like to meet in order to keep everything moving and to meet your testing schedule."
Of course, the reports that first broke the news didn't publish any emails themselves, and it's not clear if Apple even said that it is testing a car in the facility. While it certainly seems to point in the direction of a car, Apple could be using the facility to test other products. Not only that, but even if Apple is ready to test a car, that doesn't mean that it will release a car to the public in the near future.
Apple isn't the only large tech company to be experimenting with autonomous car technology. Google has very publically been developing a self-driving car, and is currently testing the car on public roads in Northern California. Uber is also working on autonomous car technology.
Apple's self-driving car program is rumored to be called Project Titan, and there are hundreds of engineers who are on-board in the development of the car. Apple has reportedly hired people from around different auto industries, including in battery tech. Apple was even sued by A123 Systems in February for poaching its employees, accusing Apple of luring employees away from A123 to develop a large battery that would directly compete with products from A123.
Apple is so secretive about the project that it is not even having employees work on its main campus, instead leasing a building around four miles from its Sunnyvale campus.