Apple Files Report to NHTSA on Self-Driving-Car Project

Apple Inc. filed a safety report to this week that offers a rare peek inside the company’s secretive autonomous vehicle test program.

Ten other companies, including Ford, General Motors and Ford, previously have submitted similar reports. The voluntary reports are not required to test self-driving cars in the U.S.

Apple, which has said little about its Project Titan autonomous vehicle project, last month reassigned more than 200 members from the program to other projects. But in a seven-page document filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Apple touts the potential benefits of self-driving vehicles and details its measures to ensure safe testing.

Apple emphasizes its test vehicles have "multiple, redundant and fault-tolerant" mechanisms to ensure safety. This includes visual and audio alerts to prompt well-trained backup drivers to take control if pre-set limits for steering, braking and acceleration are identified. For example, alerts are triggered before a lane change so the driver can take control if the automated move is deemed inadvisable.

In a separate report required by the California Dept. of Motor Vehicles, Apple says it operated more than 70 self-driving vehicles—modified Lexus RX450h SUVs—in the state that tallied about 81,000 miles last year.

Apple had the highest “disengagement” rate (when a back-up driver takes control of a vehicle operating in autonomous mode) of the 25 companies that submitted reports. Apple vehicles were in two accidents in 2018, neither of which was determined to be the fault of the self-driving system.