Lest you think Apple's secret project to build a car is just rumor mill gossip, The Guardian has obtained documents (through a public records act request) showing that Apple is interested in working with a Bay Area vehicle testing facility.
Apple representatives emailed with representatives for GoMentum Station, a private vehicle testing facility located on a former naval base in Concord, California, near San Francisco.
"We would... like to get an understanding of timing and availability for the space," said Apple engineer Frank Fearon in an email, according to the paper. "And how we would need to coordinate around other parties who would be using [it]."
GoMentum Station is located on the grounds of the former Concord Naval Weapons Station Test facility, with 2,100 acres of roads and facilities simulating cities, bridges, railroad crossings, roadways, roundabouts, parking lots, tunnels, and more—all protected by military checkpoints and kept away from the prying eyes of potential competitors and, perhaps most importantly for Apple, the press.
The facility, which is managed by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, is already in partnership with at least one major manufacturer to test automated vehicles. Honda has posted a video to Acura's YouTube page showing off the facility and claiming it's the largest automated vehicle proving ground of its kind.
Acura is working on its automated vehicle program with a version of the RLX sedan equipped with laser rangefinding equipment to navigate.
A separate report says the facility can support as many as five vehicle manufacturers, with Honda and Mercedes-Benz (which has a large Silicon Valley presence) already signed on. Other technologies could be tested at the facility too, including vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications and other advanced infrastructure technologies.
GoMentum Station would be a natural solution for Apple, which would need established but private testing facilities for its car project (something that many major automakers already own, though not to the scale of GoMentum) and the privacy offered by the secure facility would certainly appeal to the company.
The Guardian claims engineers from Tesla tried to tour the facility, but military personnel at the gate refused access to foreign-born workers and a Tesla manager who declined to share his social security number for a background check.
It's not clear from the documents what kind of vehicle Apple is working on, whether electric or automated or not—it just reveals that Apple is interested in using the facility for something.
With Apple rumors, it's not always the case that where there's smoke, there's fire—but given the difficulty Apple had keeping a watch entirely under wraps (not to mention the phone and tablet projects, which were extensively reported on), it's likely we'll hear much more about Apple's car project whether the company is ready for us to know about it or not.
Are you interested in hearing more about Apple's car, or do you think it's, as they say in Texas, all hat and no cattle? Let us know in the comments below.
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Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.