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Apple

The possibilities that begin to form through ideas of technology such as Android Auto And Apple CarPlay are limitless.

Technology updates are a large part of the refreshed 2016 Volkswagen Passat (full review), and perhaps the boldest change to this historically sedate midsize sedan is seen in its CarNet infotainment platform, which receives Apple AAPL -3.45% CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integrations.

When using CarPlay or Android Auto, the smartphone is displayed in the in-dash display instead of the vehicle’s infotainment system. However, don’t expect to see a mirror image of your home screen–the smartphone integrations use a “vehicle mode,” which contains a subset of approved media and navigation apps on the device’s phone, including the native Apple Maps and Google GOOGL +0.59% Maps. These apps have been optimized (and in some ways restricted) for use in the car and integrated with the vehicle controls to provide a seamless and theoretically safer way to use your smartphone.

Volkswagen Electronic Strategy Specialist Thanh Uy Phan Tan demonstrated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to highlight its features and differences between the two integrations.

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The recent dream for car companies is to be able to sell a car that can drive itself, which company will get there first?

Last week’s “exclusive” in the Guardian claiming to “confirm Apple is building self-driving car” raised quite a buzz. Much of that buzz was skeptical, with many pointing out that the facts failed to support the Guardian’s conclusion.

The logical leap that Guardian made was that an Apple engineer’s interest in the GoMentum Station vehicle test track confirmed Apple’s driverless car program. This is too big a leap, as a range of Apple car-related aspirations—self-driving or not—might have use for such a test track.

Let’s assume, however, that the Guardian is right and Apple does have a driverless car ready for testing. (This is possible, as Apple has hired many automotive engineers, including the former CEO of Mercedes Benz’s Silicon Valley research center.) What would that say about the relative state of Apple’s driverless car?

It would tell us that Apple is millions of miles behind Google, and falling further behind every day.

As one of the few companies in the world richer than Google, Apple can match the cars, sensors, processors, navigational systems and other pieces of hardware that Google might deploy. It can replicate the sophisticated maps that Google has compiled. It will have a very hard time, however, catching up with Google’s on-the-road learning.

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Apple taking precautions to keep their progress secret as they test their autonomous vehicles.

Apple is looking into using a former military base northeast of San Francisco as a high-security proving ground for autonomous vehicles it is developing, according to an online report by British newspaper The Guardian.

Engineers from the technology giant’s Special Projects group have been in contact with representatives of GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre facility on the site of what used to be the Concord Naval Weapons Station, in Concord, Calif.

Correspondence obtained by The Guardian through public records requests shows Apple is interested in using the sprawling sites, which has more than 20 miles of paved roads, city streets, railroad crossings and tunnels, to test self-driving vehicles.

Both Honda and Mercedes-Benz have been using GoMentum Station for testing their own autonomous cars.

News of Apple’s interest in the former base is the latest glimpse into Apple’s secretive autonomous-car program. The maker of iPhones and MacBooks had said little publicly about its vehicle-development efforts, but in recent months it has hired some well-known executives from automakers.

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Apple’s loss of hundreds of engineers is now yesterday’s news. This is because, just one week later Apple flips the situation with a report from Financial Times. Apple now declares that they tend to hire many in the automotive industry to develop a secret, new feature with Mercedes-Benz. This story has grown due to WST and Reuters fanning the flame.

Among those hires? Johann Jungwirth, who until very recently was President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America. His arrival, plus talk of other automotive engineers joining the ranks more quietly, has a lot of people speculating that Apple’s next one more thing will be a car.

I won’t rule out Apple rolling out something on wheels sometime down the road, but for now, the most likely applications of this vehicular know-how are a lot more subtle — but potentially a lot more interesting.

Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, or MBRDNA as it’s more tersely known, is the Silicon Valley epicenter for M-B’s fancy thinking. I toured the facility when it opened in late 2013, and it is quite a place. Big and open and full of glass and brushed metal and, indeed, feeling very Apple-like.

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