Technology

First Apple Car Crash Reported, Thanks To A Human Driver’s Fault

Apple Car Crash
Image Credit: MacRumors / YouTube video (screenshot)

In the first-ever reported instance of an Apple car crash, a Nissan Leaf rear-ended an Apple Lexus SUV. Apple disclosed the crash in a report to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), blaming the human driver rather than its own technology for the crash.

How the Apple car crash happened

The Apple car crash occurred on August 24, when one of the test cars for its autonomous vehicle project was moving toward the Lawrence Expressway in the Bay Area. The crash occurred in Sunnyvale, California, which is not very far from Apple’s Cupertino headquarters. According to the official filing, there were no unusual conditions at the time of the crash.

According to Apple’s report, its test vehicle was in autonomous mode and was traveling at less than one mile per hour when it was struck from the rear by a Nissan Leaf, which was moving at 15 miles per hour. Though no injuries were reported, both vehicles sustained noticeable damage.

“The Apple test vehicle was traveling less than 1 mph waiting for a safe gap to complete the merge when a 2016 Nissan Leaf contacted the Apple test vehicle at approximately 15 mph,” the filing states.

Accident involving self-driving car and an electric car

The Apple car crash is the 95th autonomous vehicle collision incident report received by the California DMV in 2018. Last year, the agency received 30 incident reports. Last month, Alphabet’s Waymo, GM, and Toyota informed DMV of the crashes. In majority of the incidents, the other driver was at fault.

In April, the DMV updated its rules for driverless testing to allow testing even without a driver. There are reports suggesting that self-driving cars are safer than those with human drivers. Such reports also have data to back their claims. However, leading companies in the field of self-driving cars are still not ready to put their fully automatic cars into the production stage. Even Apple’s car project, referred to as Project Titan, is not expected to launch publicly until 2023.

An interesting point worth noting in the Apple car crash is that it occurred between two future technologies of transportation: a self-driving car and an electric car. Most are aware that both technologies are the future, but still, we don’t yet have a fully autonomous car that runs entirely on batteries.

Currently, self-driving technology is known to consume massive amounts of power, as much as 2 to 4 kW of electricity. That’s enough to power 50 to 100 laptops, notes Bloomberg. One could argue that Tesla cars come fitted with an auto-pilot mode, but the mode is still quite far from the full autonomy standards the industry is moving toward.

What we know so far about Apple’s car project

This is the first reported crash involving an Apple vehicle since the iPhone maker started testing in April last year. At the time, the company had three sensor-laden Lexus RX450hs, which have reportedly grown to a fleet of 55 in May. The company reportedly started working on its car project in 2014.

Moreover, the Apple car crash report once again confirms that the iPhone maker is still pursuing its autonomous vehicle ambitions. Publicly, Apple has never spoken about its self-driving car program. However, a criminal court case last month confirmed that about 5,000 employees are working on the car project, which includes circuit boards and a “proprietary chip” for self-driving cars.

Additionally, Apple’s first public acknowledgment of its interest in self-driving tech came in a letter addressed to U.S. transportation regulators. The letter, which was sent in late 2016, urged authorities not to restrict testing of the vehicles. Then in June 2017, Apple CEO Tim Cook admitted that the company was developing “autonomous systems.”

In 2017, Apple secured approval to test its autonomous vehicles in California. Since then, the company has been growing its fleet of Lexus SUVs which serve as test vehicles. Last year, Apple also published research on cars involving a technology that could help spot pedestrians efficiently.

Apple has also filed several patents related to cars. Just last month, two Apple patents were revealed publicly. One of the patents was for special seats that produce haptic feedback to alert drivers. The other patent detailed a unique revolutionary sun-roof.