Apple Titan Program Scouts Local Autonomous EV Testing Facility

AUG 17 2015 BY JAY COLE 16

Gomentum Station - The Perfect Test Area For Project Titan?

Gomentum Station – The Perfect Test Area For Project Titan?

While Apple’s electric car program – code name Titan, has been in the news a lot for having “secret labs”, hundreds of employees, hiring away engineers from Tesla, as well as former industry personnel from other auto companies, there hasn’t been a lot of hard evidence that a full-fledged drive to put an EV on the road by 2020 under the Apple brand was actually going to happen.

Hard To Find This Kind Of Landscape Within 40 Miles Of Silicon Valley

Hard To Find This Kind Of Landscape Within 35 Miles Of Silicon Valley

Enter the Guardian, who with the help of a public records act request, has confirmed that at least Apple is acting like a company with a plan to build an autonomous electric vehicle – and maybe one that is a little ahead of that 2020 schedule at that.

The Guardian says that just this past May, Apple was out looking to secure a large automotive proving ground in San Francisco, specifically a 2,100-acre former naval base – the GoMentum Station.

“The location is both remote and secured – protected by the military even, and billed as “the largest secure test facility in the world” for “testing validation and commercialization of connected vehicle (CV) applications and autonomous vehicles (AV) technologies to define the next generation of transportation network infrastructure.”

Video (below): Check out the GoMentum Station in this video of the Acura RLX autonomously testing their last month – looks like a pretty good location to test a secret EV to us!

Apple engineer Frank Fearon this May wrote (in correspondence with the Guardian under a public records act request):

“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].”

Then later in the month, Jack Hall, who is program manager for autonomous vehicles at the Station, wrote back to Fearon to postpone a tour of the facility, but said:

“We would still like to meet in order to keep everything moving and to meet your testing schedule.”

The facility, which features over 20 miles of paved roads and city streets, has been used in the past by both Daimler and Honda.

When the Guardian more recently asked the owners of the GoMentum Station about the Apple project, they said that had signed a NDA with Apple and could only state that “they’ve come in and they’re interested.”

Concord Naval Weapon Station, California.

Concord Naval Weapon Station, California (via Gomentum Station)

According to numerous reports, Apple currently has a large team working on Project Titan in an anonymous office building in Sunnyvale, California, which is very close to the company’s main base of operations in Cupertino.

The news that Apple is now looking to privately test “something” may be a sign that their secret EV is ready to hit the road…or maybe that its next iPhone doubles as an autonomous skateboard or something.

The Guardian, Hat tip to Pushmi-Pullyu!

Categories: Concepts, General

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16 Comments on "Apple Titan Program Scouts Local Autonomous EV Testing Facility"

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carcus

Will my autonomous iCar let me tell Siri where to go, then I lay down in the back seat and take a nap?

If so, I foresee my annual miles driven (ridden) going up substantially.

Doug

+1

taser54

Given Apple Maps horrid reputation, autonomous driving with it will be called, “the Apple App of death”.

Tim

Ah yes, the 3 year old meme lives on. Yet the development and improvement has continued. At the three year old mark, most definitely Google Maps was worse than Apple Maps at the same age. Mapping takes time, and all mapping solutions have gone through the same genesis.

Joe

I’m pretty sure Google maps, and the previous owner of them, got the names of major oceans right on the first try.

Yes, that’s how sloppy they were when it first came out. Completely unacceptable.

Stimpy

You sound like someone that has not used Apple Maps either recently, or at all.

carcus

He sounds like Tim Cook.

DonC

Clearly Apple wants into the auto space and is spending money to do this. Still don’t think Apple, or Google for that matter, wants to build cars. More the user interface to the car, expansively defined.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Indeed.

This fits perfectly with the scenario I’ve been suggesting. Apple wants to develop self-driving car software and hardware, and for that it needs test vehicles, just like Google. It seems reasonable to think Apple may want to manufacture hardware for self-driving cars; computers, sensors, and possibly control interface mechanisms. Apple could sell those to EV makers who would rather not spend the money and time to develop those themselves.

Cars made by traditional auto makers, equipped with a suite of Apple hardware and software for self-driving. To me, that makes a lot more sense than Apple trying to enter the market for making cars; a market requiring very high capital investments and yielding very thin profits.

I think Apple wants to remain a manufacturer of electronic hardware with a high profit margin. But hey, if they need some place to get rid of their enormous profits, sinking that into an auto manufacturing division would certainly be the place to do it! 😀

Liveforphysics

If Apple is just making autonomous driving control software/hardware, for what reason would they hire a substantial amount of industry leading EV battery developers, EV motor developers, suspension engineers, etc?

Tim

Apple most definitely is exploring designing, building, and selling a car. Whether they ultimately do, only time will tell. The people they are hiring from the car industry are not designers. They are the people who oversee the manufacturing of cars that can be sold on the market.

There are outsourcing car manufacturers (Magna International – magna.com is one) that would even fit within Apple’s manufacturing strategy.

Again, Apple may very well decide not to ultimately do it but there is absolutely no doubt they are working on creating a car.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Tim said:

“The people they are hiring from the car industry are not designers.”

Previous reports on Apple’s “Titan” project don’t agree with your assertion; see, for example, the quote below.

Now I do agree that not all of the people Apple is reported to have hired for this project are “designers”. Some indeed seem to have experience in automotive manufacture rather than design. But if Apple wants to sell hardware which will be integrated into auto manufacturers’ cars, then it needs to have some input from those who understand how auto manufacturers build those cars.

Now, I certainly won’t claim this is evidence my scenario is correct. I think the scanty evidence we’ve seen could point either way.

Quoting from “Apple hiring automotive experts to work in secret research lab”:

“Apple is recruiting experts in automotive technology and vehicle design to work at a new top-secret research lab, said several people familiar with the company, pointing to ambitions that go beyond the dashboard.”

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/84906352-b3a5-11e4-9449-00144feab7de.html

Stimpy

Make no mistake, they are looking at the full car. Apple, Google, and Uber for that matter.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Evidence?

carcus

Perhaps Apple wants to be the next “iMagna International”. Specializing in autonomous driving — all the related components and the hardware, software that controls them.

it does seem like they’ve hired the people to manufacture something significant,… maybe not a full car, but many of the parts?

Mutwin Kraus

Seems extremely unlikely given Apple’s history. Apple is a product and consumer-focussed company. If they start selling components the consumer is no longer the customer.