Is tech giant back in the autonomous vehicle game?

Late last year, Apple announced it was cutting back on its ambitious plans to join the self-driving car craze. At the time, the company explained it wasn’t abandoning its projects, but would instead be focusing more on developing the software that powers the autonomous vehicles rather than jumping in with a vehicle of its own. But new rumors from Cupertino show that Apple may be back in the game.

*NOT the actual prototype.

*NOT the actual prototype.

Apple filed for the necessary permits to test autonomous cars on actual roads, but in keeping with the current requirements, plans to have a driver behind the wheel monitoring the vehicle’s performance. While the exact timeline for testing isn’t known, the permits do indicate that Apple has filed paperwork for “three 2015 Lexus RX450h SUVs and six drivers,” according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Apple stayed quiet about plans

When the initial permits were originally filed last year, Apple stayed quiet about their plans. They may have even thrown a few people off their trail by indicating that the permits were necessary in order to serve as a consulting resource to the entire self-driving car industry. Now, though, with the vehicle and driver specifics, it looks as though the company is aiming to do more than support the efforts of other companies. Further look into the DMV website shows that Apple’s permits were not listed as of March 30th, but have been listed as of last Friday, according to InsuranceJournal.com.

Vocal critics

The self-driving car issue is one that many consumers are eagerly anticipating, especially in terms of increased safety, improved driver performance, and the accessibility options it affords a large segment of the population. However, critics have already pointed fingers at companies like Uber, who’s already experimented with self-driving ride-share vehicles that can put contractors out of work. At this point in time, Uber’s efforts have also been criticized for not having the necessary permits, at least two instances of self-driving cars running red lights, and more.