Apple kept mum in recent months as Waymo, General Motors, Ford, and Lyft continued to make announcements about their self-driving car projects. But Apple has been at work all the while, quietly growing its Bay Area test fleet to 27 autonomous vehicles, according to Bloomberg. After registering three cars under the California Department of Motor Vehicles program for testing autonomous cars in April 2017, Apple has since sought permitting for an additional 24 cars.
Apple tends not to innovate first. “It doesn’t bother us that we are second, third, fourth or fifth if we still have the best,” CEO Tim Cook said at the Utah Tech Tour in 2016. “We don’t feel embarrassed because it took us longer to get it right.”
Project Titan, as Apple’s self-driving car effort is known, has evolved in fits and starts. In 2016, the company laid off “dozens” of Project Titan team members in an attempt to control costs. Cook confirmed that Apple was still working on a self-driving system in an interview with Bloomberg last year, but disclosed few details. Despite its slower start, Apple does have some advantages versus competitors, as research firm Navigant notes in a recent report. For example, the company’s self-designed processing chips and graphics cards could provide the foundation for an automated driving platform. Apple’s affluent customer base could also give the company greater control over pricing in a traditionally low-margin business.