While we've covered Apple's flirtation with automobiles before, late Friday conclusive evidence emerged that the smartphone giant is building an autonomous vehicle. Documents leaked to British newspaper The Guardian show more proof the company has quietly been staffing a team of engineers, car designers and battery experts to work on a car-related special project, which looks almost certainly to be a full-on car.
This confirms earlier job postings by the Cupertino, California, based company for automotive engineers and its recent interest in BMW. Apple CEO Tim Cook visited the German automaker earlier this year regarding a possible partnership, though in reality the Apple entourage may have just been kicking the tires while trying to pick up manufacturing tips.
BMW was reported to have been very careful about what they said and what facilities they allowed Apple to see, fearing the company would simply steal its manufacturing techniques.
While most of Friday's story has been known for some time, it did contain the new revelation that Apple has signed a deal with GoMentum Station, a former naval base 30 miles northeast of San Francisco, which is outfitted with a network of roads and highways over its vast 2,100 acre parcel of land.
The facility can be used for only one thing: testing a self-driving car.
The complex is typically Apple: Super secret. Using the facility means the company avoids having to disclose information to any municipal government, which is what rival Google has had to do with the city of Mountain View, where it is testing its own fleet of autonomous vehicles.
The secret initiative is codenamed Project Titan within Apple, and is likely to hit the market in five years or so. While Google has reportedly commissioned over 100 prototypes, as we covered here, Apple has also been creating prototypes of its own that are further along than anyone anticipated.
The prototypes are so advanced that the company may be able to begin testing them as early as next year. It’s not yet known whether the vehicles will be entirely self driving or whether it will, as most analysts assume, be a hybrid containing a steering wheel as well as a self driving mode.
The most fascinating part of the new report is that, as we reported here, Apple's number one iPhone manufacturer, Foxconn, has been working on electric vehicle manufacturing for some time now. The company is, in fact, now a major car rental and car manufacturing company within China and is expanding rapidly.
This means that Apple, now in the advanced stages of creating a self driving vehicle would have a long-trusted manufacturing partner ready, willing and able to produce a vehicle at a moment's notice.
Such news is likely to strike fear in the hearts of established automakers in Detroit and Germany, as two of the biggest brands in the world - Apple and Google - now have their sights firmly set on the automotive industry.