Apple is well along on its efforts to develop a self-driving car and is looking for a secure test location in the San Francisco Bay area, according to a report Friday by Mark Harris in the Guardian. GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre former naval base near San Francisco, appears to be one location of interest.
Writes Harris, “In correspondence obtained by the Guardian under a public records act request, Apple engineer Frank Fearon wrote: ‘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].’”
Adds Harris, “In late May, Jack Hall, program manager for autonomous vehicles at GoMentum Station, wrote to Fearon to postpone a tour of the facility but noted: ‘We would still like to meet in order to keep everything moving and to meet your testing schedule.’”
Harris writes that GoMentum Station is a WWII-era facility with 20 miles of paved highways and city streets. Mercedes-Benz and Honda have already conducted tests at the facility, which is closed to the public and guarded by the military.
Car makers including Google, Tesla, Volkswagen, and Mercedes-Benz, Harris notes, have been issued permits to test autonomous vehicles on public roads. But they must disclose technical and commercial details—something that might well be anathema to the secretive Apple.
Why would Apple be interested in autonomous vehicles? Harris notes that Apple senior vice president Jeff Williams has called the car “the ultimate mobile device.”
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