Ap­ple said to be show­ing in­ter­est in us­ing au­to­mo­tive test­ing fa­cil­ity

The China Post - - BUSI­NESS - BY BRAN­DON BAI­LEY

Ad­ding fuel to ru­mors that Ap­ple is work­ing on de­signs for a car, lo­cal of­fi­cials say engi­neers for the gi­ant tech com­pany re­cently made in­quiries about a for­mer navy base that’s been con­verted into a test­ing ground for self-driv­ing cars and other cut­ting-edge ve­hi­cles.

Ap­ple, which is best known for mak­ing iPhones and Mac com­put­ers, hasn’t said what kind of test­ing it hoped to con­duct at the GoMen­tum Sta­tion au­to­mo­tive test­ing fa­cil­ity, which used to be a naval sta­tion in the San Fran­cisco Bay Area city of Con­cord.

“We don’t know. They haven’t said what they want to test. It could be an iPhone,” joked Jack Hall, pro­gram man­ager for con­nected ve­hi­cles and au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles at GoMen­tum Sta­tion, which is op­er­ated by the Con­tra Costa Trans­porta­tion Au­thor­ity. The agency is pro­mot­ing a por­tion of the for­mer Con­cord Naval Weapons Sta­tion as an ideal test­ing fa­cil­ity for car­mak­ers and tech com­pa­nies work­ing on au­to­mo­tive tech­nol­ogy.

“It’s got all the in­fra­struc­ture of a city,” Hall said of the fa­cil­ity. “There are build­ings, streets and in­ter­sec­tions, but no peo­ple.”

The 2,000 hectare site has 20 miles of paved roads, in­clud­ing over­passes, tun­nels and rail­road cross­ings, ac­cord­ing to the agency’s web­site, which calls it “the largest se­cure test fa­cil­ity in the world.” An­other 3,000 hectares of the for­mer navy base is now used as a ship­ping ter­mi­nal by the U.S. Army.

GoMen­tum Sta­tion al­ready has an agree­ment with Honda, which plans to test au­to­mated ve­hi­cle sys­tems there. Hall said his agency hopes to part­ner with other com­pa­nies for test­ing self-driv­ing cars and “con­nected ve­hi­cles” — cars that use the In­ter­net and lo­cal net­works to ex­change a va­ri­ety of in­for­ma­tion with other de­vices and ve­hi­cles.

Ap­ple has “shown in­ter­est” in the fa­cil­ity but has not reached any agree­ment for test­ing there, Hall said. Com­pany rep­re­sen­ta­tives have not ac­tu­ally vis­ited yet, he said. An Ap­ple spokesman de­clined com­ment Fri­day.

The tech gi­ant’s in­ter­est in the fa­cil­ity was first re­ported by the Guardian news­pa­per, which cited email cor­re­spon­dence ob­tained un­der a pub­lic-records re­quest. The news­pa­per also quoted an­other of­fi­cial at the trans­porta­tion au­thor­ity who said Ap­ple in­sisted on a non-dis­clo­sure agree­ment which barred him from say­ing any more.

A num­ber of au­tomak­ers and tech com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Google, are work­ing on new de­signs for au­ton­o­mous and elec­tric-pow­ered ve­hi­cles.

In Fe­bru­ary, The Wall Street Jour­nal cited un­named sources who said Ap­ple is work­ing on de­signs for an elec­tric ve­hi­cle to be sold un­der the Ap­ple brand. An­a­lysts say Ap­ple has the fi­nan­cial where­withal and am­bi­tion to pur­sue such a project, al­though some be­lieve it’s more likely in­ter­ested in de­vel­op­ing soft­ware for use in cars made by other com­pa­nies.

Other ev­i­dence of Ap­ple’s in­ter­est in cars has sur­faced in re­cent months, in­clud­ing a law­suit in which a Mas­sachusetts startup work­ing on elec­tric car bat­ter­ies ac­cused Ap­ple of poach­ing some of its engi­neers. The law­suit has since been set­tled.

AP

This June 11 photo shows the Ap­ple logo on an iMac at an Ap­ple store in New York.

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