Apple joins the self-driving car race. (Photo: The Quint)
| 3 min read

Apple vs Google: Race of the Self-Driving Cars Heats Up

Apple was recently granted permission to test its self-driving cars on public roads in California. This permit puts to rest all speculation that Apple was developing a self-driving car. Fact is, it is.

To get the permit from the Californian authorities, Apple is required to give out details of the vehicle that is being tested. While it is exciting that Apple will be testing a self-driving car, it hasn’t built a car entirely on its own. However, it has developed the self-driving hardware and software that will be fitted into three existing cars for testing on public streets in the state of California.

According to a Bloomberg report, Apple will install its software and hardware kit in three 2015 Lexus RX450H SUVs. These self-driving SUVs will, however, not be unmanned. As per testing regulations, they will have to have standby drivers sitting in the vehicles at all times.

Apple will be using Lexus RX450H vehicles for testing. (Photo: Waymo)
Apple will be using Lexus RX450H vehicles for testing. (Photo: Waymo)

Apple is a few years behind Alphabet (Google’s parent company) when it comes to self-driving cars. Google’s self-driving car program, now called Waymo, has been under development since 2009. The company claims its Waymo cars have the equivalent of 300 human years of driving experience – with over 1.6 billion simulated kilometres being tested in 2016 alone.

Google has also had its fair share of mishaps, with its self-driving cars getting involved in accidents on a couple of occasions, but given the kilometres driven, the number of accidents in terms of percentage is far lower than human-driven cars.

Apple, by that standard, has a lot of catching up to do. There are 29 companies that have been given permits to test self-driving cars in the valley, which include Tesla, Uber, Ford, BMW, Volvo, Volkswagen and GM. In fact, nuTonomy, a Singapore-based company, already has a fleet of self-driving taxis running on the streets, which puts them a step ahead of both Apple and Google in this race.

Also read: Uber Suspends Self-driving Cars After Crash in United States

Apple has not built its own car yet, and will be using the technology on existing cars like the Lexus RX450H. Tesla has an upper-hand as it already has its range of electric cars being kitted out with self-driving technology, but law requires that a human sit behind the steering wheel at all times to take control if needed.

Google (Waymo) developed its own prototype of a self-driving car in 2015, but is also using Toyota Prius sedans, Lexus RX450H SUVs and Chrysler Pacific Hybrid minivans to log testing miles. Google’s own self-driving car does not have a steering wheel or pedals and is completely autonomous, while the other vehicles it is testing have the ability for a human to take control in case of an emergency.

Now, with Apple getting into the race, will we see another IOS vs Android battle play itself out on city streets as well? Would you prefer an Apple iCar or a cute Google Waymo car?

Oh wait, before you ask what is India doing about self-driving cars, here’s a video of a self-driving Tata Nano!