Rumors have been swirling when it comes to discussion on the permit Apple received over a week ago to test self-driving cars in the state of California. The company joined a list of 29 others on April 14th that were given the license to test their automation service. It's still unclear on what Apple will actually do, but part of it will include using video game controllers.
Documents retrieved by Kif Leswing of Business Insider show the details of a training program for car automation that will be run by Apple engineers. This reveals safety testing that will be performed in the process of creating the "Apple Automated System." There isn't any further information on the system itself, so it's unclear if the company is going to actually create their own vehicles, or if the system is going to be given to manufacturers.
The permit grants Apple the ability to use six different drivers for safety testing, and they can use three Lexus RX450h SUVs for the vehicles to test on. The automation system should be able to perform basic functions such as needing to steer and making U-turns. However, these cars won't just be sent out and tested on their own.
While testing the automated system, Apple engineers will have the ability to overtake control manually. This will be done by using Logitech steering wheels and foot pedals. According to the documents, "one person at a time" can "actuate drive by wire." Business Insider further explains how this is done, including the ability to control speed without fully taking over the automated service.
Pressing the brake pedal or grabbing the steering wheel in Apple's test vehicles will disengage the electronic-driving mode, but drivers can accelerate without overriding the "drive by wire" mode.
Seven tests will be done in total, which will also include driving at high speeds, lane changing, and more. Documents show the pedals and the steering wheel set up inside of the vehicles, but it's unknown whether or not the drivers will be inside them during testing, or if they'll be operating the cars remotely.
There's also no details on what exact Logitech product will be used. Based on the training documents, it could be the Logitech Driving Force G920 Racing Wheel. This product includes the same three-pedal system shown in the picture above.
All this testing will be done with recording software built into the vehicles. Apple stated in a document given to the California DMV issuing the patent that it will be able to receive information prior to any collisions.
The ability to control self automation through overriding use of controllers could set up an interesting twist. Our ability to control cars just like in video games has actually expanded into real life, and it could provide a huge step in the process to make autonomous cars a common occurrence.