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article imageApple is looking for a testing ground for its self-driving car

By James Walker     Aug 16, 2015 in Technology
Leaked documents have apparently confirmed Apple is building a self-driving car. Developed in Silicon Valley, the company is now looking for a secure location in the San Francisco Bay Area to use as a testing ground for the autonomous vehicle.
As Quartz reports, the Guardian discovered that Apple's "Project Titan" self-driving car is much further into development than was previously thought. Using the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, the newspaper found that Apple engineers met with officials at GoMentum Station in California during May.
GoMentum Station is a disused naval weapons base dating from World War II. The site, protected by a military guard, includes 20 miles of paved highways, city streets, tunnels and railway crossings, making it a perfect place to test an autonomous vehicle in real-world driving conditions away from the public gaze.
Other companies developing autonomous cars, including Google, have obtained permission from the state of California to test on the open road. It has been suggested that Apple is avoiding that route for now so it can withhold the technical details of its vehicle for as long as possible.
The GoMentum site has previously been used in experiments conducted by car manufacturers including Mercedes-Benz and Honda. It looks as though Apple may be the next name to be added to the list if a note from company engineer Frank Fearon, obtained by the Guardian, is accurate.
It reads: "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]." The memo appears to confirm that the technology giant's long-rumoured self-driving car is real and in development.
Randy Iwasaki, executive director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority which owns GoMentum Station, told the Guardian "they've come in and they're interested" but could say no more due to a non-disclosure agreement.
In late May, GoMentum Station's program manager for autonomous vehicles, Jack Hall, wrote to Apple's Fearon to postpone a scheduled tour of the company's Sunnyvale facility, four miles away from its main Cupertino campus and thought to be the centre of Project Titan development. He ended the message with "We would still like to meet in order to keep everything moving and to meet your testing schedule."
Little is known about the mysterious Project Titan save for a series of tell-tale signs. Apple has been poaching engineers from noted automotive manufacturers including Mercedes-Benz, Tesla and battery manufacturer A123 Systems.
CEO Tim Cook is known to have met with Fiat-Chrysler boss Sergio-Marchionne as part of the project which is thought to involve several hundred workers. Reports have also suggested that Tim Cook visited BMW's Leipzig plant last year to learn about how it produces the all-electric i3.
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