It has long been known that Apple is working on automotive-related projects, but the company has never publicly confirmed any details. The news was made public by California’s Department of Motor Vehicles on Friday.
The agency said Apple has been given permission to test three cars manufactured by Lexus. Apple has not commented – other than to point to its letter late last year expressing an interest in the technology.
The company was “excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation”, it said at the time.
Rumours about Apple’s car ambitions have ranged from speculation it was building its own car to the suggestion it was instead focusing more on in-car software.
Internally known as Project Titan, the project at one point was understood to have more than 1,000 employees working on it, though the current scale of Apple’s efforts is unknown.
Encountering self-driving cars in California is a daily occurrence for those living around Silicon Valley. Apple has become the 30th company to be granted a testing permit.
Among the stipulations for approval is the requirement to regularly report back statistics on the performance of the technology – including how often humans have to intervene when the computer gets it wrong.
Apple’s competitors have already been testing autonomous vehicles. Last year Waymo – a company spun out of Google’s self-driving programme – clocked up 635,868 miles in California. Statistics showed a human had to step in on average once every 5,000 miles of driving.