After years of secrecy, Apple has finally publicly acknowledged that it has joined the self-driving car race. In a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on November 22, the Cupertino company said it was making huge investments in developing a self-driving car. If the rumor mill is to be believed, the so-called Apple car is being developed under the Project Titan for almost two years.
Apple making huge investments in Apple car
In his five-page letter, Apple’s director of product integrity Steve Kenner urged the US regulators not to impose heavy restrictions on autonomous driving as Apple begins testing the technology. Kenner said Apple was “excited” about the potential of automated systems “in many areas, including transportation.” The tech giant was making huge investments in the “study of machine learning and automation.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook has indicated on several occasions that the company was eager to move beyond the integration of iPhones in car infotainment systems. The tech giant has registered several automobile-related domain names such as Apple.auto and Apple.car. After the five-page letter went public, an Apple spokesman told Reuters that the company wanted to work with the NHTSA to “help define the best practices for the industry.
Apple emphasizes the need to share data
Kenner pointed out that there were huge societal benefits of automated vehicles to be realized. Automated vehicles could prevent millions of car accidents and thousands of fatalities. However, some analysts believe that self-driving cars would also lead to millions of job losses. Kenner demanded that established players like GM and Ford and new entrants like Apple should be treated equally.
Apple emphasized the need to share “crashes and near-misses” data without compromising user privacy to improve the self-driving technology. Sharing such data will allow the industry to build a more comprehensive picture than “any one company could create alone.” It will help all players in the industry to design better systems “to detect and respond to the broadest set of nominal and edge-case scenarios.”
Apple developing underlying tech for a self-driving car
Though Apple has been quiet on the Apple car, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has called it an “open secret.” Musk believes that Apple is late to the self-driving party. Google already has autonomous cars on roads. Tesla announced in October that all of its cars built from October onward would have the necessary hardware installed to drive without requiring hands on the wheel.
After several key departures, Apple reportedly shifted focus from building a full-fledged car to developing the underlying technology. It leaves open the possibility of designing a car later or partnering with an existing manufacturer to build the Apple car. Earlier, there were rumors that Apple was in talks to acquire or invest in the British carmaker McLaren.