In May, engineers from Apple’s secretive Special Project group met with officials from GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre former naval base near San Francisco that is being turned into a high-security testing ground for autonomous vehicles. In correspondence obtained by the Guardian under a public records act request, Apple engineer Frank Fearon wrote: “We would ... like to get an understanding of timing and availability for the space, and how we would need to coordinate around other parties who would be using [it].”
The GoMentum Station used to be the Concord naval weapons stations and contains 20-miles of paved, city-like roadway grids, buildings, and other urban infrastructure. It's closed to the public and guarded by the military making it "the largest secure test facility in the world" for the "testing validation and commercialization of connected vehicle (CV) applications and autonomous vehicles (AV) technologies to define the next generation of transportation network infrastructure."
Honda researchers have been using the facility to test automated driving technologies using modified versions of Acura’s flagship RLX sedan. Check out a video of that below...
Jack Hall, program manager for autonomous vehicles at GoMentum Station, wrote Apple to postpone a tour saying, "We would still like to meet in order to keep everything moving and to meet your testing schedule."
When Apple engineer Frank Fearon contacted the GoMentum Station, he wrote: "We are hoping to see a presentation on the ... testing grounds with a layout, photos, and a description of how the various areas of the grounds could be used."
It's likely that Apple is looking to test its vehicles in a secretive environment so it doesn't need to disclose details that would required to obtain a permit from the California department of motor vehicles.
“We had to sign a non-disclosure agreement with Apple,” says Randy Iwasaki, executive director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, owner of GoMentum Station. “We can’t tell you anything other than they’ve come in and they’re interested.”
Security at the facility is so tight that when engineers from Tesla tried to tour the facility, armed soldiers refused entry to foreign-born workers and a manager who wouldn't provide his social security number. “At this point, I’ll retract our interest in this test site until the process is worked out,” he fumed in an email to GoMentum.
Apple is widely rumored to be working its self-driving electric car at a secret research lab just minutes away from Apple's headquarters, in Sunnyvale, California.
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