Apple is interested in entering the race for self-driving cars, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed to Bloomberg News last week. Cook has previously been very quite on Apple’s exploration into vehicle technology. Apple has been involved in developing vehicle-related technology for the past few years, but only recently has revealed their focus on autonomous vehicles.
Apple initially began development of an electric vehicle in 2014, but shuttered the program and has since refocused on autonomous vehicles. It is often cited that Apple decided to ditch the program after realizing how difficult it would be to scale production of said vehicles.
Apple Director Steve Kenner first wrote a letter to the NHTSA last December, revealing the company’s interest in autonomous vehicle technology. Kenner stated in the letter, “The company (Apple) 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.” Cook’s recent remarks expand on Kenner’s letter to NHTSA by adding that the company is working on the “mother of all AI projects.”
“We are focusing on autonomous systems. Clearly, one purpose of autonomous systems is self-driving cars; there are others. We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects. It is probably the most difficult AI projects.” – Apple CEO Tim Cook
Cook also remarked that he believed that automotive industry is “ripe for disruption” through the electrification of vehicles, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has previously said that Tesla is working on “advanced narrow AI,” to power their self-driving technology. While Apple is concentrating on self-driving technology, Tesla has been focusing on the complete vertical with plans to launch a self-driving rideshare fleet in the next few years.
“There is a major disruption looming there. Not only for self-driving cars, but also for the electrification piece… Plus you have ridesharing on top of this. So you have three vectors of change all happening in the same timeframe.” Cook said in an interview with Bloomberg last week.
Just like how Apple disrupted the smartphone industry with the iPhone, the company isn’t looking to be the first with self-driving technology, but rather the best.