Technology

Apple’s self-driving test car rear-ended in its first collision

CALIFORNIA: An Apple self-driving car was rear-ended while merging onto an expressway near the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters this month, the company said in an accident report posted on Friday that confirmed the iPhone maker is still in the race to build autonomous vehicles.

Apple executives have never publicly spoken about the company’s self-driving car programme, but filings in a criminal court case last month confirmed that the company had at least 5,000 employees working on the project and that it was working on circuit boards and a “proprietary chip” related to self-driving cars.

Apple is entering a crowded field where rivals such as Alphabet Inc’s Waymo unit and traditional carmakers such as General Motors Co’s Cruise Automation, as well as start-ups such as Silicon Valley’s Zoox, are pouring billions of dollars into cars that can drive themselves.

The iPhone maker’s first public acknowledgement of interest in the field came in a letter to US transportation regulators in late 2016 urging them not to restrict testing of the vehicles. Last year, Apple secured a permit to test autonomous vehicles in California. It has been testing cars on the road since last year and now has permits for more than 60 vehicles. Apple researchers also last year published their first public research on cars, a software system that could help spot pedestrians more readily.

The safety of self-driving cars has become a source of concern for US transportation regulators this year after one of Uber Technologies Inc’s vehicles struck and killed a woman in March in Arizona, prompting the company to shut down its testing efforts for a time. Uber has said it plans to have self-driving cars back on the road by the end of the year.

The California DMV said it has received 95 autonomous vehicle collision reports as of August 31. Dozens of companies have received permits to test self-driving vehicles on California roads, but those permits require the presence of a human safety driver.

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