US tech giant Apple has reportedly launched a secret lab to start development of its own self-driving electric cars.
Looking to join the likes of Google, which launched self-driving car trials last year, Apple is now studying the potential of automated driving and is engaging with suppliers of electric and connected-car technologies. Although, as sources told Reuters, the firm is more likely to want to develop the vehicle independently than partnering with a major car maker.
"They don't appear to want a lot of help from carmakers," an unnamed source told Reuters.
"Fully automated driving is an evolution. Carmakers will slowly build the market for autonomous cars by first releasing connected and partially automated cars. Apple is interested in all the potential ways you can evolve the car; that includes autonomous driving."
An Apple spokesman in London on Saturday declined to comment on ‘rumours or speculation’.
The existence of the secret driverless cars lab at Apple's headquarters in California's Cupertino was first reported by the Wall Street Journal last week. The Financial Times further suggested the lab was set up late last year after Apple revealed its newest batch of products including the forthcoming smart watch and latest iPhones.
The driverless car project, code-named Titan, is said to employ several hundred people and Apple has reportedly been looking out for more engineering talent from the automotive and robotics sector.
Apple’s executives had allegedly been negotiating with Austrian vehicle-maker Magna Steyr. The company’s spokeswoman, however, declined to comment.
Various carmakers including Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen have already demonstrated car technology with various degrees of autonomy. However, fully self-driving cars are not expected to appear on the roads until 2025 or 2030.
Self-driving car trials in the UK have been launched this month.