Apple CEO confirms company is developing autonomous technologies for vehicles

Article by Christian A., on June 14, 2017

Apple Inc. is certainly entering the automotive market by working on autonomous technologies for vehicles, the tech giant’s chief executive confirmed to Bloomberg Television.

During an exclusive interview with Bloomberg Television's Emily Chang, Apple CEO Tim Cook has divulged several details about the tech giant’s plans in the automotive market. This marks the first time that Cook divulged more elaborate information about its automotive ambitions, after the company ended a not-so-secret car project.

Apple has been testing the grounds of the automotive industry through its so-called Project Titan, which is essentially a supposedly secret electric car scheme. This car project had Apple poaching employees from Tesla – including former Tesla senior engineer Jamie Carlson – and a number of experts from other carmakers and tech giants. Tesla had responded by also poaching employees from Apple.

However, it was reported that Apple wasn’t into car production anymore. The Project Titan – which commenced on 2014 -- was ultimately cancelled after years of work, and the reasons were aplenty. For instance, the leadership of the project had been changed too often, resulting to a stark hesitancy on how the program should develop further. But as Cook confirmed, the end of Project Titan doesn’t really mean the end for Apple in its automotive ambitions, as the tech giant has refocused its efforts into creating software for autonomous vehicles.

In fact, Apple has received this year a permit for testing autonomous cars in California. The California Department of Motor Vehicles gave Apple in April a permit to test three self-driving SUVs. However, a source privy with Project Titan has told Bloomberg News that around half-dozen vehicles with Apple’s autonomous technology had been tested on public roads in and around the San Francisco Bay area for around a year.

Cook remarked that the decision to focus on autonomous systems was influenced by the fact that the company considers such core technology as very important. He further likened the ongoing work on autonomous systems to the “mother of all AI projects,” adding that such efforts could be one of the most difficult AI projects to work on.

However, Apple’s interest in automotive technology was made known in a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as written by Steve Kenner, the carmaker’s director of product integrity. Since the letter was published on a federal Web site, Apple’s intention was ultimately revealed to the public.

Cook remarked during the interview that a major disruption is bound to happen, thanks to three vectors of change -- self-driving technology, electric vehicles and ride-hailing –happening in the same time frame. He, however, didn’t confirm whether Apple will ultimately build its own car, adding that they will see where its autonomous project takes the company.


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