Apple meets with California DMV, hinting that public car tests could happen soon

What if Apple's self-driving car is much further along than anyone realizes?

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Apple met with California’s Department of Motor Vehicles in August to discuss self-driving vehicles, which means an Apple-branded electric car might be closer to hitting the road than previously expected.

The Guardian caught wind of the meeting from DMV documents, and confirmed with the department’s officials that “the Apple meeting was to review DMV’s autonomous vehicle regulations.”

The California DMV doesn’t exactly have self-driving car regulations, but it’s working to establish guidelines manufacturers to follow before releasing their autonomous cars to the public. As you can imagine, a self-driving car needs to be rigorously tested and undergo safety certifications before it hits the streets. According to The Guardian, the California DMV missed its early 2015 deadline for drafting the regulations, but the department is issuing permits for a self-driving car test program.

It’s unclear whether Apple senior legal counsel Mike Maletic was discussing a permit request with DMV officials during the August 17 meeting. Maletic met with DMV Deputy Director Bernard Soriano, Chief of Strategic Planning Stephanie Dougherty, and Chief Counsel Brian Soublet. If Apple does apply for a permit, all the details about its car’s features will become public knowledge. The Guardian noted that Apple can keep its car under wraps by testing it on private property, but that’s not the same as a test on public roads in real conditions. Apple had previously reached out to executives at GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre test facility closed to the public, but it’s unclear if the company ever put its car to the test at that location.

The story behind the story: When rumors of an Apple car first emerged, it seemed like the company was in the very early stages of envisioning what its self-driving vehicle would be like. But what if Apple has been working on a car for years, and the reason we’re finally hearing about it is it’s almost ready for the public to see? The evidence is mounting.

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