Apple Joins the Race for Self-Driving Cars

Most people watching the tech sector said it had to happen sooner or later. Now, it looks like the “iCar” may be sooner than anyone really expected. Apple is finally in the race to develop the first consumer-friendly self-driving car. And, as is their habit, the company landed in the market with a massive splash.

California’s DMV awarded Apple a permit to design and test a self-driving car on public roads in the state. According to the Associated Press, the permit will allow Apple to test self-driving car tech in Lexus RX 450h hybrid SUVs. While there will be drivers in the vehicles in case something goes wrong, Apple is expecting the tests to position them among the leaders in the race.

If successful, where will the company go from there? There’s no telling, and Apple sure isn’t saying. They may develop lines of self-driving tech for other automakers, or they may even try to produce their own vehicle, the iCar perhaps.

And, of course, being Apple, the company is looking beyond transportation, releasing a statement that the company is exploring other potential applications for self-driving tech. The notion that Apple might be working on its own car is not that far-fetched, seeing as how the company brought in former Ford executive, Steve Kenner, to run its self-driving product integrity division.

Poaching a former automaker executive could be a signal that Apple has designs beyond making the tech for other automakers, or it may just be a window into how automakers work and think to help the brand open channels and make distribution deals.

And count Apple among the companies that believe self-driving cars will be a major time saver and safety feature. One of the most common pitches for self-driving cars hurled at doubters is the twin ideas that self-driving cars will mean fewer cars on the road, fewer accidents and safer overall driving conditions.

Apple certainly needs the solid PR push. Once the go-to brand for tech innovation, Apple has become almost mundane in recent years. The company hasn’t really made a splash since the iPad back in 2010, and slumping sales in the tablet market means Apple needs something more than another size of iPad to get back on top of the tech wave of the future.

And this is happening as those watching the absolute cutting edge of consumer tech are already saying the days of the smartphone are coming to an end. While no one is really saying what comes next, everyone agrees, the smartphone has plateaued and will need to evolve to keep people interested.

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States.

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