Apple now has second biggest fleet of self-driving test cars in California

Apple still hasn’t publicly announced its plans when it comes to autonomous cars. However, in the meantime it continues to grow its fleet of self-driving test cars — which are now the second largest in the state of California.

At present, Apple has 55 self-driving vehicles that it is testing on public roads. That’s up from just three in April 2017, little over one year ago. In March this year, that number was at 45. Apple lags only behind GM Cruise, which has 104 test vehicles on the road.

Behind Apple lags Waymo, which has 51 vehicles registered in California, and Tesla, which has 39 vehicles. However, those numbers may be somewhat misleading, since other companies are testing their self-driving fleet in other parts of the U.S. as well. Waymo, for instance, has hundreds of autonomous vehicles being tested in Arizona.

Nonetheless, it underlines how seriously Apple is taking this technology. In addition to the 55 self-driving vehicles, Apple has 83 drivers who are permitted to test autonomous vehicles, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Apple’s self-driving ambitions

Apple is rumored to have a team of hundreds of engineers working on self-driving car technology. However, it’s not clear what Apple aims to do in this capacity. At first, the company reportedly planned to build a car from the ground up. Those goals may now have changed to building only the underlying navigation system for a self-driving car.

In the meantime, Apple has continued with its research. Recently it published an online research paper describing how neural networks can be used to help improve accuracy in Lidar technology, often used in autonomous vehicles.

Late last year, a photo posted on Google Earth showed a former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles facility in Arizona that Apple might be using to test autonomous vehicles. The satellite image depicts a “proving ground” with urban street configurations, such as crosswalks and intersections, which would be necessary for putting a self-driving vehicle through its paces.

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