Recent filings with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reveal a marked increase in Apple’s autonomous vehicle testing mileage during 2023 according to a new report by Wired.
Compared to 2022, the Cupertino tech giant nearly quadrupled the number of miles its self-driving vehicles logged on public roads, suggesting a significant ramp-up in Project Titan’s testing regime. The data, covering December 2022 to November 2023, indicates a consistent upward trend, culminating in a peak of 83,900 miles driven in August.
However, it’s crucial to contextualize this increase within the broader autonomous vehicle (AV) development landscape. Unlike competitors such as Waymo and Zoox, which hold permits for driverless testing in California, Apple’s current testing necessitates a safety driver behind the wheel. This distinction introduces inherent limitations when comparing mileage figures, as Waymo, for example, recorded 3.7 million miles with a safety driver and an additional 1.2 million miles in driverless mode within the state during the same period.
Furthermore, recent reports suggest a potential shift in Apple’s AV aspirations. Bloomberg posits that the company might be downsizing its ambition for a fully autonomous vehicle, potentially pivoting towards developing advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) akin to those offered by Tesla and other automakers. These systems, while incorporating automated elements, still require driver vigilance and attentiveness. This reported strategic shift aligns with the delayed debut of the Apple electric vehicle, now projected for 2028 instead of the initially targeted 2026 launch date.
Project Titan’s trajectory reflects its inherent secrecy. Since obtaining its initial testing permit in 2017, the project has witnessed leadership changes, including the departure of Doug Field, a prominent figure recruited from Tesla, and more recently, another key executive transitioning to Rivian. These developments underscore the project’s fluidity and ongoing strategic recalibration.
While the significant increase in testing mileage signifies undeniable progress, the exact nature of Apple’s self-driving ambitions remains veiled. Whether the company ultimately pursues full autonomy or focuses on advanced driver-assistance features, one thing is certain: Project Titan’s journey towards a commercially viable Apple vehicle continues to unfold, marked by both technological advancements and strategic adaptations.