Apple is definitely testing self-driving cars, California DMV confirms

The rumor mill has spun for years that Apple is developing a car, or at least advanced tech for vehicles, and today we have hard evidence the tech giant is hitting the road with its very own ride. And we're not talking a run-of-the-mill sedan here: Apple is testing self-driving cars.

According to an updated page on the typically dry California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website, the agency has issued an Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permit to Apple, allowing it to conduct self-driving car tests in the state. 

The iPhone 7 maker is the newest entrant as of April 14, joining the likes of Nvidia, Faraday Future, Ford, Honda, BMW, Nissan, Tesla, Google and Mercedes Benz with self-driving permit in hand.

As with every other company that's testing autonomous vehicles in California, Apple must submit a report on traffic accidents involving its cars within 10 business days. Apple also needs to turn in an annual report on disengagements, or every time a human driver takes over for the self-driving system.

Apple on the road

Best known for the iconic iPhone, which turns 10 this year, Mac computers and the Apple Watch, vehicles are a whole new product category for Apple, and one it's taken its sweet time to develop. 

That's Apple's modus operandi with nearly every device, including rumored work in virtual reality, but it seems now Apple is ready to take its show on the road, and make its cars a reality.

It's no surprise Apple would include self-driving features in its vehicles considering the market's trend towards autonomy, with a growing number of car makers adding driverless tech following Tesla and Google's lead. 

Apple's mystery mini van, equipped with self-driving tech apparatus

Apple's mystery mini van, equipped with self-driving tech apparatus

Though signs here and there over the years have indicated Apple has four-wheelers on the brain, we started seeing mystery vans equipped with LIDAR and other tech indicative of self-driving systems last year. One van was spotted cruising near Apple offices in Sunnyvale, California. 

Those vans, it turned out, were working on Apple Maps, but it's possible they were also testing systems that would one day make it into a self-driving car.

With its freshly minted permit, we could soon see patented Apple self-driving cars on California roads. We'll keep our eyes out (and let us know if you see one!), though don't expect to be able to buy your own iCar for a few more years. 

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.