Apple Might be Leasing Chrysler’s Old Proving Grounds for Self-Driving Car Testing

Article originally posted on Phoenix Business Journal on November 28, 2017

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Apple appears to be leasing a former Fiat Chrysler-owned proving grounds in Surprise to test autonomous vehicles, according to the vehicle news website Jalopnik.

The tech behemoth Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) has been recruiting automotive test engineers and technicians from other proving grounds in Arizona, according to an unnamed source in the story.

The Phoenix metro area is home to several automotive proving grounds which use thousands of acres of desert land for a variety of cold and hot weather testing on vehicles.

A development agreement involving the city of Surprise, an entity of iStar Inc.(NYSE: STAR) which owns the proving ground and a group called Route 14 Investment Partners LLC was forged in September.

Route 14 Investment is a Delaware-based corporation. It is not clear what links it has to Apple, if any.

Representatives of iStar, Surprise and Apple could not immediately be reached for comment.

IStar also owns the Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale.

Arizona has been home to several test tracks (i.e. proving grounds) where cars and technology can be tested in extreme heat.

The Phoenix Business Journal was given a rare look inside Ford’s Arizona Proving Grounds a couple months ago.

It’s not surprising Apple is possibly using the Valley for self-driving tests since the Phoenix area has been a hotbed for other companies doing similar autonomous car testing.

Companies such as Waymo, Uber, Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and General Motors (NYSE: GM) have been taking advantage of the state’s heat, dust storms and a state government open to innovation.

Apple has a large data center/command center in Mesa where it has been hiringa number of people, including engineers, site services managers and maintenance technicians.

Apple bought a building owned by First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR) in 2013 and promised a 700-worker glass factory operated by one of its suppliers. The plant closed when supplier GT Advanced Technologies filed for bankruptcy.

In 2015, Apple unveiled plans to convert the Mesa facility into a data center. Ironically, that is part of redevelopment of the old GM Proving Ground.

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