Apple ramps up self-driving program as Waymo says the tech improves

FILE PHOTO: An Apple logo is seen behind the branches of a tree outside of an Apple store in Beijing, China on December 14, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Apple Inc logged tens of thousands of miles testing self-driving cars in 2018, a strong increase of only hundreds of miles from the year before, according to data released Wednesday by the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Apple, which has kept the details of the self-driving program under wraps, 79,745 miles of testing in California in 2018, still far short of 10 million miles of testing on roads around the world by the Alphabet Inc Waymo. But the miles made by Apple last year, far above the 838 km of testing of the iPhone-maker has in the previous year.

Apple has only spoken in general terms about her interest in self-driving and the company only secured a California license to perform testing in 2017.

Last year, Apple re-hired Doug Field to work on the self-driving car project, called Project Titan, with the old executive Bob Mansfield. The field had left earlier left Apple’s senior vice president of engineering at Tesla, Inc.

Apple has also called two former employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for allegedly stealing trade secrets about the program. Court documents in those cases, it is revealed that Apple has at least 5,000 employees in the project.

California regulators on Wednesday released annual data on how often the human drivers had to intervene in self-driving systems tested in the state. Waymo said it did 1.2 million miles of testing in California in 2018, tripling the mileage recorded a year earlier.

In a blog post, Waymo said that it had vastly decreased how often the safety of the drivers needs to take control of the self-driving system, suggest the vehicles are becoming better at dealing with a wide range of situations.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis, Alexandria Sage and Paresh Dave in San Francisco, Editing by Rosalba O’brien and David Gregorio

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