SAN FRANCISCO • An Apple self-driving car was rear-ended while merging onto an expressway near the company's Silicon Valley headquarters last month, the firm said in an accident report that confirmed the iPhone maker is still in the race to build autonomous vehicles.
Apple executives have never publicly spoken about the company's self-driving car programme, but filings in a criminal court case confirmed that it had at least 5,000 employees working on the project and that it was working on circuit boards and a "proprietary chip" related to self-driving cars.
The tech giant is entering a crowded field where rivals such as Alphabet's Waymo unit and traditional carmakers like General Motors' Cruise Automation, as well as start-ups such as Silicon Valley's Zoox, are pouring billions of dollars into cars that can drive themselves.
On Aug 24, one of Apple's Lexus RX 450h self-driving test vehicles in "autonomous mode" was merging south on the Lawrence Expressway in Sunnyvale, California, at less than 1 mile per hour when it was rear-ended by a 2016 Nissan Leaf going about 15 miles per hour, according to the report on the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website last Friday.
The accident happened as the Apple vehicle had slowed and was waiting for a safe gap in traffic to complete the merge, the report said. There were no injuries.
Under a safety plan filed with California regulators, a human driver must be able to take control of Apple's self-driving test cars.
Number of autonomous vehicle collision reports received by the California Department of Motor Vehicles as of Aug 31.
An Apple spokesman confirmed the company had filed the report but declined to say whether the trailing car could have been at fault.
The California DMV said it has received 95 autonomous vehicle collision reports as of Aug 31. Dozens of firms have permits to test self-driving vehicles on California roads, but those permits require the presence of a human safety driver.