Top Banner

Apple announce plans to develop self-driving cars

Apple has confirmed its ambitions to develop self-driving vehicles. There has been widespread speculation in relation to Apple's ambitions in the sector of autonomous vehicles over the last number of years, but it has now been officially revealed.

Apple penned a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in which they conveyed some of its opinions in relation to draft regulations for the sector - Apple revealed they submitted the letter because it is going to invest heavily in autonomous systems and machine learning.

In the letter to the NHTSA, Apple's director of product integrity, Steve Kenner, said the company was looking forward to working with the NHTSA and were excited about the prospect of realizing the potential of automated systems in many areas.

Kenner said: "Apple looks forward to collaborating with NHTSA and other stakeholders so that the significant societal benefits of automated vehicles can be realized safely, responsibly and expeditiously. There are many potential applications for these technologies, including the future of transportation, so we want to work with NHTSA to help define the best practices for the industry."

Apple have a separate company called 'Project Titan' which was created specifically for developing automotive projects - although Apple have never officially confirmed the project, a number of remarks made by CEO Tim Cook have fuelled speculation. Following a $1 billion investment in a Chinese ride-hailing service called Didi Chuxing, Cook spoke about a number of strategic things that the companies can do together over time - some have suggested that in this instance he's speaking about autonomous vehicles.

However, in early September, The New York Times reported that the group had narrowed its ambitions, dismissing dozens of staff as part of the project's "reboot." Instead of designing and producing a complete self-driving car, the group will now concentrate on developing underlying technologies for autonomous vehicles.

In its letter, Apple urges the NHTSA not to penalize new participants in the sector by restricting the testing of cars under development on public roads, for which established automakers generally have exemptions and suggested that to maximize the safety benefits of automated vehicles, encourage innovation, and promote fair competition, established manufacturers and new entrants should be treated equally. Apple also encourages data sharing, particularly for accidents, saying that would enable the industry to build a more comprehensive dataset than any one company could create alone.

Most major auto manufacturers and many technology groups are currently developing autonomous vehicles, that are considered to be the future of the automobile, along with electric power, with first production models promised for around 2020.