Apple’s Self-Driving Car Tech Is 3 Years Behind Google, Report Says

Which makes sense, given Apple’s relatively recent entrance to the self-driving car field.

byStephen Edelstein|
Apple’s Self-Driving Car Tech Is 3 Years Behind Google, Report Says

Following a recent report by The New York Times detailing the restructuring of Apple's self-driving car project, an anonymous insider claims the company still has a lot of catching up to do. Apple's self-driving car tech is where Google "was three years ago," the source, who has reportedly seen Apple's tech and is familiar with the competition, told Business Insider.

"Apple is just trying to play catch up," the source said.

Google began testing self-driving cars on public roads several years ago, eventually spinning its self-driving car project off into a separate company called Waymo. This new entity has forged partnerships with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Lyft in order to commercialize its technology, and continues to test and develop it.

In comparison, Apple is a relative newcomer to self-driving cars. According to The New York Times, its self-driving car project only started in 2014, and hasn't made much progress due to a lack of focus. Apple originally wanted to build its own car, but is now limiting development work to autonomous-driving systems that can be used by third parties, the paper said.

Apple is now reportedly testing a handful of autonomous Lexus RX 450h prototypes in California, and is preparing an autonomous shuttle service called PAIL (Palo Alto to Infinite Loop) that will shuttle employees around the vicinity of Apple's main campus.

According to Business Insider, Apple is developing autonomous driving tech with an eye toward ride sharing, but has no plans to become the next Uber. Like Waymo, Apple will likely partner with another company to launch a ride-sharing service. Last year, Apple invested $1 billion in Chinese Uber rival Didi Chuxing, and has a seat on its board.

Apple will also need to partner with an automaker to gain access to cars. Thanks to its partnerships with Lyft and FCA, Waymo is already ahead of Apple in both areas. With so many automakers committed to autonomous driving, Cupertino probably won't have trouble finding partners of its own. But Apple still has a lot of catching up to do.