Is Apple Testing Autonomous Vehicles at Arizona Proving Ground?

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  • For years, Apple followers have claimed a connection between the tech big and Route 14 Funding Companions based mostly on skinny proof.
  • We visited Route 14’s Arizona proving floor and noticed the corporate testing a automotive with a sensor stack with a design like one Apple has been testing.
  • We additionally uncovered paperwork that seems to attach at the very least one particular person to each corporations.

In late 2005, DaimlerChrysler bought its proving floor in Wittmann, Arizona, to homebuilder Toll Brothers and its companions for $312 million. The brand new house owners meant to make use of the 5500-acre property to develop a deliberate group with about 33,000 houses. It by no means materialized, and in 2010, the builders defaulted on their mortgage, leaving the proving floor within the possession of the mission’s lender, iStar.

After greater than a decade of possession, the industrial real-estate finance firm lastly unloaded the land, promoting it to Route 14 Funding Companions LLC in July 2021 for $125 million. Route 14 Funding Companions was no stranger to the property. Roughly 5 years earlier, the New York–based mostly iStar had begun leasing the proving floor to the little-known limited-liability firm.

A lot about Route 14 Funding Companions stays shrouded in secrecy, as there’s minimal public data out there in regards to the presumably automotive-related firm. Nonetheless, rumors persist that Route 14 Funding Companions is a shell firm for Apple’s automotive mission, as soon as—and probably nonetheless—often known as “Mission Titan.”

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Apple followers level to purported statements from unnamed sources confirming this, in addition to the truth that Route 14 Funding Companions fashioned shortly after the tech big’s rumored automotive mission first got here to mild in early 2015. In addition they notice that each Route 14 Funding Companions and Apple use CT Company’s Company Belief Firm, which serves as a registered agent for corporations that incorporate in Delaware, permitting companies to benefit from the First State’s tax advantages with out organising devoted places of work there.

The truth that lots of of hundreds of different companies, together with Ford, Toyota, and Tesla, have used CT’s providers solely emphasizes the circumstantial nature of this skinny connection between Apple and Route 14 Funding Companions.

Autonomous in Arizona

Final month we flew to Arizona to go to Route 14 Funding Companions’ proving floor in Wittmann. With little precipitation and plenty of sunshine, the sleepy unincorporated desert group, positioned roughly 35 miles northwest of Phoenix, is conducive to autonomous-vehicle testing.

lexus rx testing at route 14 investment partners arizona proving ground

Greg S. Fink|Automotive and Driver

Primarily based on what we witnessed whereas staking out the proving floor, we will affirm the presence of self-driving-vehicle expertise at Route 14 Funding Companions’ facility. We captured photographs of a white fourth-generation Lexus RX, sensor stack mounted to its roof, present process testing throughout the fenced-in perimeter of the proving floor.

Extra telling is the design of the sensor stack, which matches those who Apple has fitted to a number of Lexus RXs photographed in California. Photos of those autos are all around the internet, and lots of embody a transparent view of every car’s license tag—data we used to tug the car identification quantity (VIN) for 5 of the California-registered Lexus SUVs.

self propelled test car from apple

image alliance|Getty Photos

We then crosschecked every VIN in opposition to these listed inside California’s 2022 Autonomous Mileage Experiences. (The Golden State requires any autonomous-vehicle developer testing its expertise on public roads to file information on system disengagements.) The end result? All 5 VINs correlated with stories submitted by Apple.

Admittedly, it is attainable that one other firm is toying with an analogous sensor-pack design. With none license plate or VIN data for the RX we noticed on the former DaimlerChrysler proving floor, our proof, although stronger than a shared registered agent in Delaware, nonetheless appeared too weak by itself to persuade a proverbial jury that this proves “past an affordable doubt” that Route 14 Funding Companions is an Apple offshoot.

Environmental Connection

The place there’s smoke, there’s more likely to be fireplace. Though we noticed nothing else of notice whereas staking out the proving floor, we did stumble throughout an indication posted excessive up on a portion of the chain-link fence surrounding the property:

for stormwater complaints visit please visit www dot azdeq dot gov

Greg S. Fink|Automotive and Driver

Within the months earlier than our Arizona journey, we searched public-records databases for clues that may reveal extra particulars about Route 14 Funding Companions. In all that point, we might by no means checked the Arizona Division of Environmental High quality (ADEQ) web site. It was actually an indication from above.

After leaving Wittmann and checking in to our resort in close by Shock, Arizona, we hunted for data posted on ADEQ’s web site, one in all which was for the water system on the proving floor. The doc lists the names and make contact with data of the system’s administrative contact and proprietor. Each telephone numbers have Silicon Valley space codes, and the proprietor’s is shared with traces at Apple headquarters in Cupertino.

Neither particular person answered our calls. That stated, our analysis provides us purpose to imagine that the listed proprietor, William Lynch, straight connects Route 14 Funding Companions to Apple.

next gen apple carplay

apple

As evidenced by Lynch’s Route 14 Funding Companions e mail handle (kl@route14investment.com) and the voicemail greeting of the telephone quantity listed within the ADEQ doc, Lynch doesn’t sometimes go by the identify William. Reasonably, he goes by Ken. A short LinkedIn search introduced up the profile of an Apple worker named Ken Lynch who has spent near a decade working for the corporate within the discipline of setting, well being, and security. Maybe not conclusive, however definitely fascinating.

As soon as once more, we appeared to public data for help, and we quickly got here throughout EPA paperwork that included contact data for an Apple-associated Ken Lynch.

We referred to as the quantity listed subsequent to Ken Lynch’s identify on these Apple-related EPA submissions and had been despatched to voicemail. A greeting practically indistinguishable from the one related to Lynch’s Route 14 Funding Companions telephone quantity addressed us on this line as effectively. We recorded each greetings and listened to them again to again a number of occasions.

We can’t declare with certainty that these two telephone numbers belong to the identical Ken Lynch till Lynch responds to our queries and places this query to mattress. However, if we had been the playing form, we might wager large cash that each corporations depend on the work of a single Ken Lynch. For its half, Apple tell us that the corporate had nothing to share on the issues of its or its workers’ connections to Route 14 Funding Companions.

apple car rendering

Automotive and Driver

Is Apple All In?

For years, circumstantial proof drove the narrative that linked Route 14 Funding Companions to Apple’s automotive mission. Now we’ve got more durable proof that extra straight connects the 2 corporations.

If that is so, then Route 14 Funding Companions’ $125 million buy of the outdated DaimlerChrysler proving floor seems to point Apple’s monetary dedication to making a automotive of its personal, presumably one with profitability in thoughts. In spite of everything, Apple didn’t turn into a multi-trillion-dollar firm by haphazardly and needlessly spending lots of of tens of millions to develop financially futile merchandise.

Headshot of Greg S. Fink

Senior Editor

Regardless of their shared final identify, Greg Fink will not be associated to Ed “Massive Daddy” Roth’s notorious Rat Fink. Each Finks, nevertheless, are identified for his or her love of automobiles, automotive tradition, and—unusually—monogrammed one-piece bathing fits. Greg’s profession within the media business goes again greater than a decade. His earlier expertise contains stints as an editor at publications reminiscent of U.S. Information & World Report, The Huffington Submit, Motor1.com, and MotorTrend.

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