A new report from The Guardian claims to have documentation that “confirms” Apple is working on a self-driving car. In the report, Apple is found to be in discussion with a facility that is fashioned like a makeshift city.
Here’s the crux of what’s happening: Apple engineer Frank Fearon sent an email to people at the facility in question, GoMentum Station. The facility is a 2,100 acre former Naval Base near San Francisco, and has features like faux gas stations and freeway overpasses.
In his email, The Guardian says Fearon wrote “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].”
A previous email form Fearon reportedly states “We are hoping to see a presentation on the… testing grounds with a layout, photos, and a description of how the various areas of the grounds could be used.”
The “we” is presumed to be Apple, and the facility is assumed to be needed to test Project Titan, Apple’s alleged self-driving car.
Randy Iwasaki, executive director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (who owns GoMentum Station) would only say, “We had to sign a non-disclosure agreement with Apple. We can’t tell you anything other than they’ve come in and they’re interested.”
Let’s take a step back and look at what we have: Apple wants to check out a facility prime for testing cars, and have taken steps to assure secrecy in examining the facility.
That’s it. That’s the ‘confirmation.’
There is a lot of circumstantial evidence that Apple indeed has some sort of automotive project underway. A new building shrouded in secrecy has been leased, and Apple sniffing around a testing facility is also curious.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has apparently been meeting with several executives from brands like BMW and Fiat, too.
Wouldn’t it be just as likely — maybe even more reasonable — to think Apple was instead building some sort of in-car software for car manufacturers to use? CarPlay already exists, and may be more of a proof-of-concept than finished product.
CarPlay, like Apple TV, is a non-vertical platform (meaning Apple doesn’t control your hardware/software experience from end-to-end — you still need a TV or a car, which Apple doesn’t make). Apple is rumored to be seeking partnerships that will bring us TV channels to the set-top box, and could be seeking similar types of partnerships for CarPlay/Project Titan.
Apple is mysterious about everything, all the time. Interest in a facility doesn’t mean Jony Ive designed a car. It means Apple is working on something outside of phones, tablets, and computers.
There’s a lot to assume here, but jumping to conclusions is the wrong leap to make. Rather, let’s just pick up these breadcrumbs as we go and stop asking ‘are we there yet?’ each time new tidbits of information drop.