Apple gets permit to test self-driving cars in California

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The Apple headquarters at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California.

WASHINGTON — Apple’s interest in self-driving cars is becoming more transparent.

The tech giant received a permit from the California DMV Friday morning to test three Lexus SUVs on public roads. Apple is now the 30th company to have such a permit in California.

Apple has long kept its interest in self-driving technology under the radar. The business around autonomous vehicles is likely to be worth trillions, so experts have expected Apple to formally dive into the field.

It’s unclear what form Apple’s interest in self-driving technology will take. There have been reports in the last year that Apple scaled back plans to build its own vehicle. Instead, the automaker could focus on building the software and hardware to make cars and trucks self-driving. Waymo, the Google subsidiary that’s seen as the self-driving leader, is taking such an approach.

Previously, the clearest signal of Apple’s intent came in December when it sent a letter to the federal government expressing enthusiasm about the impact of automation on transportation.

Apple is set to begin testing as the state government becomes more welcoming to self-driving vehicles. The California DMV released proposed rules for self-driving cars in March, clearing the way for cars with an empty driver’s seat to operate on state roads by year’s end.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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