In a major step forward that will aid Project Titan’s Apple Car in the development process, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that will permit fully autonomous testing. Now, vehicles without steering wheels or other manual controls, and no backup driver, can be tested.
The bill’s stipulation states that the testing must take place at GoMentum Station and a business park location, run by Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA). The station is an old Naval weapons facility. The business park is located in San Ramon, CA. The CCTA may plan or disclose additional sites at a later date. The Authority has reported that Apple and Google have inquired about the testing. Other companies are already using the facilities.
There are many locations where testing is and has been already in progress. Some is being performed in enclosed spaces, while others, in real-world situations. As far as reports are concerned, most testing has been done with all manual controls present and working, as well as a backup driver or passenger, ready to take over in case of emergency.
This has become the preferred method due to safety regulations and current laws, added to the fact that it is still unknown whether or not the technology may falter or fail. But, such unknowns will need to be sorted out, as eventually the technology is expected to function on its own.
Once the traditional cabin can be safely removed, to allow for less controls and create additional space, there won’t be a practical way for a backup driver to assist, barring some sort of handheld or independent, removable control system. Another option would be for the testers to be able to take over emergency control of the vehicles from the outside, via a control tower of sorts. We could think of it much like a radio controlled, toy car.
While details are even more blurred as to Apple’s automotive intentions and timeline, we do know that Apple is working on transportation related technology and testing. This is just another step closer to the future of self-driving vehicles.