Apple on Friday obtained a permit to test three autonomous vehicles in California, according to Jessica Resnick-Ault at Reuters. The vehicles are all 2015 Lexus RX 450h hybrid crossover SUVs.

Apple hasn’t publicly discussed its autonomous vehicle plans, although the company has been recruiting auto experts and has stated that it is interested in automation in many areas, including transportation.

Resnick-Ault quotes Chris Theodore, president of consultancy Theodore & Associates and a former automaker VP, as saying, “This does confirm what’s long been rumored: that Apple is at least toying with the idea of getting into the autonomous game in some capacity.”

Resnick-Ault also writes, “Chief Executive Tim Cook has suggested that Apple wants to move beyond integration of Apple smartphones into vehicle infotainment systems.”

Tripp Mickle and Tim Higgins in The Wall Street Journal suggest Apple will focus on autonomous-vehicle software in what would be “…a departure for Apple, which typically tries to control both the software and hardware of its products to deliver a uniform user experience, and maximize profits.”

Mickle and Higgins quote Ben Bajarin, an analyst with technology-research firm Creative Strategies, as saying of Apple executives, “I’m not sure they know what their play will be, but they do sense there’s an opportunity and they can bring value to it. The question is: How big is this commitment? And how much money are they throwing at this commitment? It’s hard to know where this lands on their priority list.”

Apple to test autonomous-vehicle technology on California roads
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Rick Nelson
Rick became Executive Editor for EE in 2011. Previously he served on several publications, including EDN and Vision Systems Design, and has received awards for signed editorials from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He began as a design engineer at General Electric and Litton Industries and earned a BSEE degree from Penn State.