Apple appears to have confirmed that it is working on a self-driving car.
The company has recognised the long-rumoured vehicle product for the first time, writing to US transport regulators to say that it was “excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation”.
The letter was written as a way for Apple to flag up to regulators that it was interested in getting involved with how they are developed. But far more importantly it signalled publicly that Apple is already working on such vehicles.
That information put an end to more than a year of speculation on whether such a car was being built. But it is no confirmation that it will actually make it to the public, or what form it will take.
The five-page letter, written by Steve Kenner, Apple’s director of product integrity, was sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It is the company’s most public and direct statement on any car plans – following only little hints and suggestions from anyone at Apple in the past.
“The company is investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation,” Mr Kenner wrote.
“Executed properly under NHTSA’s guidance, automated vehicles have the potential to greatly enhance the human experience — to prevent millions of car crashes and thousands of fatalities each year and to give mobility to those without.”
The company told regulators that they should not impose too many restrictions on how self-driving cars are tested, so that new companies could bring cars to market. “Established manufacturers and new entrants should be treated equally,” the company wrote.
While the letter makes clear that Apple has invested in self-driving car technology, it still remains entirely unclear what that car will even look like. Apple has reportedly re-arranged the team making it to change its focus on recent months.
But the company has been working on infotainment systems and other computers to fit into cars already, early versions of which are already appearing in new cars. It’s possible that Apple is working on an expanded version of that technology to fit into other companies’ vehicles, or is looking to build the entire car itself.
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