Apple's California Self-Driving Car Test Fleet Continues to Grow

But the numbers don't tell the whole story.

Imaginechina via AP Images

Apple has once again expanded its fleet of self-driving cars in California, according to MacReports. Citing information from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the website reported that Apple has 55 test cars in California. That's up from 45 cars in March, and 27 in January. The company also has 83 registered safety drivers in the Golden State.

The new figures show that Apple still has the second-largest autonomous-car test fleet in California, which is arguably the epicenter of self-driving car research. Waymo has 51 cars in the state, but also has 338 registered drivers. General Motors' Cruise Automation division has 104 cars and 407 drivers, according to the DMV figures. Uber previously operated a sizable fleet of self-driving cars in California, but its testing program has been suspended in the wake of a fatal crash in Arizona.

But those numbers don't tell the whole story. Apple may have more self-driving cars than Waymo in California, but Waymo likely has more overall. In addition to California, Waymo tests its cars on public roads in Arizona, Michigan, and Georgia. There is no indication that Apple is testing autonomous cars outside its home state.

Waymo Sensors
Waymo

Both Waymo and Cruise also appear closer to commercializing their tech than Apple. Waymo plans to launch an autonomous ride-hailing service in Arizona later this year, and is bulking up its fleet with thousands of new Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans and Jaguar I-Pace electric SUVs for future growth. GM has said it plans to launch its own ride-hailing service next year, potentially using cars with no manual controls.

In contrast, it's hard to gauge Apple's progress. CEO Tim Cook has indicated that the company is more interested in developing autonomous-driving systems than actual cars. Apple also hasn't applied for a permit to test fully-driverless cars or, at least, hasn't discussed it publicly.

Unlike most other companies, Apple also hasn't had to file a "disengagement report" detailing autonomous-car faults with the California DMV. Because Apple was only granted its testing permit in April 2017, it doesn't have to file its first report until January 2019. Having more cars may not mean much for Apple if they don't perform as well as those of its rival companies.