Apple's hushed up autonomous vehicle programme is suddenly in news. A self-driving car belonging to the company has met with an accident during a test run, marking the first ever accident for Apple's self-driving car programme. The autonomous car was rear-ended while merging onto an expressway near the headquarters of the tech giant in Cupertino, California in the latter part of August. As Apple never talks about its autonomous vehicle programme, the accident came to light only after a report by California Department of Motor Vehicles was filed about this incident.
According to the report, one of Apple's autonomous cars, a Lexus RX 450h, was merging south on Lawrence Expressway in Sunnyvale, California at a speed of 1 mile per hour in autonomous mode, when it was rear ended by a 2016 Nissan Leaf doing 15 miles per hour. The crash happened with Apple's self-driving car was waiting for a safe gap to merge onto the expressway. Both parties reported moderate damages in the incident and there were no injuries.
While the Lexus was fitted with sensors for self driving, the Nissan Leaf was being driven by a human. An Apple spokesperson did confirm filing a report about the crash but did not comment whether the driver of Nissan Leaf was at fault, according to a Reuters report
The safety of self-driving cars has become a source of concern for US transportation regulators this year after one of Uber Technologies Inc's vehicles struck and killed a woman in March in Arizona, prompting the company to shut down its testing efforts for a while. Uber has said it plans to have self-driving cars back on the road by the end of the year.
The California DMV said it has received 95 autonomous vehicle collision reports as of Aug. 31. Dozens of companies have received permits to test self-driving vehicles on California roads, but those permits require the presence of a human safety driver.
While this was only a low-speed crash, it does confirm one of the worst-kept secrets of the Silicon Valley: Apple is working on a self-driving car. Reports suggest that the company has a team of 5,000 employees working on circuit board and proprietary chips for autonomous cars.
Apple had secured a permit to road test a fleet of 60 self-driving cars in California last year. It was also last year that Apple researchers published their first public research on cars, a software system that could help spot pedestrians more readily.
Edited by Vivek Punj with agencies' input