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Apple has expanded its number of self-driving cars in California in an effort to catch up to its competition, according to a new report.
The Cupertino tech giant’s fleet has gone from just three vehicles last April, to 27 as of early 2018, according to DMV records cited in a Bloomberg report on Thursday. That means, from July 2017 to January 2018, Apple has registered 24 new Lexus RX450h SUVs as part of its autonomous vehicle efforts.
According to Bloomberg, Apple is “accelerating” its efforts in the self-driving vehicle sphere in order to catch up to one of its primary competitors: Waymo, a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet. Notably, Waymo is currently one of the leaders in the self-driving car field.
Reports of the so-called “Apple Car” stretch back as far as early 2015, when reports of the company’s car initiative — codenamed Project Titan — first came to light. But it hasn’t been the smoothest journey for Project Titan, and a handful of bumps in the road led to the company to shift its focus to developing the underlying autonomous systems rather than a fully fledged Apple car.
Despite the media coverage, the Apple car initiative has been one of the company’s most secretive ventures. Apple never publicly acknowledged the project until last summer, when CEO Tim Cook confirmed that the company is “focusing on autonomous systems.”
Apple received permission from the DMV to start testing its autonomous vehicles on California roads in April of last year. Since then, reports related to the Apple car have periodically leaked — and in at least one case, Apple published research on its self-driving systems.
But despite its increased efforts, Apple may have quite a bit of catching up to do. Waymo’s self-driving car tests have now expanded into six states, and the company is said to be fielding a fleet of over 600 self-driving minivans in Phoenix, Arizona alone. The company also partnered with Lyft to begin tentatively building out an autonomous ride-hailing service.