The iPhone of cars? Apple enters self-driving car race

But the New York Times later claimed that Apple had revised its downward ambitions and dismissed staff as part of a "reset" of the Titan project: instead of trying to design and produce a auto in full, The group would now concentrate on technologies allowing vehicles to drive independently.

The same permit granted to Apple was also granted to 29 other companies that include Mercedes, Volkswagen, BMW, Bosch, Nissan, Honda and Ford among others.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on Friday allowed Apple to test self-driving vehicles in the state, confirming long-rumoured plans of the company's foray into driver-less vehicles, code-named "Project Titan".

The California authorities' permission covers three 2015 Lexus sport-utility cars equipped with respective software and hardware.

But wait. Didn't Apple scrap its Project Titan (the one it never acknowledged until it said it was not going to make any self-driving cars) and start focusing only on the software part of autonomous driving technology? Most of the companies claimed that they would launch the autonomous vehicle in 2020. DMV rules require that a human driver always be seated in the vehicle even if it is on autonomous driving mode. The permit authorizes six drivers to take control of the vehicles when necessary. Apple had not openly announced that it was working on an electric auto.

What's even more interesting about this piece of news is that having their name officially listed at the DMV could perhaps means that they have gone beyond the study of automation, and have gone on to the testing phase of an actual product, something that a spokesperson from the DMV confirmed. Tim Cook - the Chief Executive -implied it.

Actually, existence of the project is still very controversial.

Although iPhone's ongoing popularity has helped Apple remain the world's most valuable company, the company hasn't had a breakthrough product since the 2010 debut of the iPad, now in the throes of a three-year sales slump.

With $246 billion in cash, Apple also could easily afford to buy technology that accelerates its development of self-driving cars.

In December, Apple had already written to the US Federal Road Safety Agency (NHTSA) to advise on draft guidelines for stand-alone cars.