Mysterious photo could reveal Apple Car proving ground

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Google Earthpic
Apple's autonomous vehicle project is still rolling.
Photo: Google Earth

What do crop circles have to do with Apple? No, it’s not 1996 — when an Apple laptop was used to save the world from aliens in Independence Day.

Instead, a new report claims that an image on Google Earth depicts a former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles facility in Arizona that Apple may be using to test autonomous vehicles. A satellite image shows a “proving ground” with urban street configurations, such as crosswalks and intersections, which would be necessary for putting a self-driving vehicle through its paces.

Despite Apple’s Project Titan appearing to have stalled, the report claims Apple has been busily recruiting automotive test engineers and technicians in Arizona — suggesting that its autonomous vehicle research is far from over. The Jaloponik report suggests that Apple is now focused on the underlying technology that can make an autonomous car drive.

While Apple hasn’t confirmed or denied that it is leasing the space in Arizona, Jalopnik notes that the previously inactive site is now back up and running. The site is leased to a company named Route 14 Investment Partners LLC, registered to an entity called the Corporation Trust Company, where Apple has a dropbox.

When asked about Apple’s possible involvement, the former manager of the Fiat Chrysler proving grounds said, “I’m not answering this question.”

Apple autonomous car project up and running?

This isn’t the first we’ve heard about Apple’s autonomous vehicles lately. This month, Apple reignited rumors about its Apple Car ambitions by publishing an online research paper describing how neural networks can be used to help improve accuracy in LiDAR technology, in which pulsed laser light is used to measure the distance of objects.

Apple’s autonomous car project recently turned up in the news again after the company’s self-driving car was spotted by the CEO of a self-driving car startup called Voyage.