Apple’s Self-Driving Car Testbeds Are Leased from Hertz, Report Says

Apple is reportedly leasing a small fleet of vehicles from Hertz to test its autonomous driving tech.

byStephen Edelstein|
Apple’s Self-Driving Car Testbeds Are Leased from Hertz, Report Says

Even rental car companies are getting into the autonomous driving business. Avis recently scored a deal to maintain Waymo's fleet of self-driving cars, and now, it appears Hertz is teaming up with Apple.

The small fleet of Lexus RX 450h hybrids Apple is using to test autonomous-driving tech are actually leased from Hertz, according to Bloomberg, which cited documents from the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The documents show Hertz's Donlen fleet-management subsidiary as the lessor for the vehicles, and Apple as the lessee.

That Apple would lease vehicles rather than buy its own makes sense, given what the company has said so far about its self-driving car project. CEO Tim Cook confirmed the existence of the project in a recent interview, but indicated that Apple is not interested in developing its own cars. Instead, it's focusing on the systems that enable autonomous driving, Cook said at the time.

High expectations have surrounded Apple's autonomous-driving program, known as Project Titan, for some time. Many in the media have speculated that Apple's endgame was an autonomous electric car. But if this "Apple Car" was part of the plan at some point, it certainly isn't anymore. Internal problems have reportedly caused Apple to reduce the scope of the project.

Apple would have faced significant challenges building its own cars, which requires manufacturing expertise and infrastructure the company simply doesn't have. Outside of the lease arrangement with Hertz, it will be interesting to see if Apple starts other partnerships to commercialize its autonomous driving systems, as other tech companies like Waymo, Uber, and Lyft have done.

For now, the mere mention of a connection with Apple is a boon for Hertz. After news of the lease arrangement broke yesterday, Hertz's stock rose 18 percent, its biggest gain in two years. The company's stock had fallen 75 percent over the past 12 months, amid concerns that ride sharing would erode the rental business.