A new report today from The Guardian says that Apple met with several officials at California's Department of Motor Vehicles last month to discuss self-driving cars. The DMV tells the paper that "the Apple meeting was to review [the] DMV's autonomous vehicle regulations," though the exact topics of discussion aren't known. Attendees included a member of Apple's senior legal team — logical, considering how deeply involved lawmaking will be in the future of autonomous driving — plus a handful of the DMV's self-driving advocates and its chief counsel.
It could still be years away
The report asserts that the existence of the meeting "suggests that its autonomous vehicle, whatever it might be, is almost ready for public view," but there's no reason to believe that's the case: the development of a new vehicle is a multi-year cycle, even for industry veterans. Though Apple has been rumored to be shopping around for manufacturing partners, there isn't any evidence they've found one — and if they've decided to make a vehicle on their own, they've yet to acquire the factories or the supply chain relationships to make that happen. And, of course, it makes sense that Apple would want to meet early and often with the regulatory agencies that will be dictating how its car operates both in testing and in production.
But the report is right about one thing: developing a car in complete secrecy, as it likes to do with everything else it makes, will become increasingly difficult as Apple moves closer to production. Any testing on public roads will involve... well, testing on public roads — and while heavy camouflage is a time-honored tradition, even a disguised vehicle will give many clues to what the final product may look like.