Apple Ready To Join Self-Driving Car Race

11 months ago by Steven Loveday 23

Apple CEO Tim Cook Has Never Officially Substantiated An "Apple Car" Or A "Project Titan" Self-Driving Initiative

Apple CEO Tim Cook Has Never Officially Substantiated An “Apple Car” Or A “Project Titan” Self-Driving Initiative

It seems that executives at Apple have finally felt compelled enough to let the cat out of the bag about the company’s move into autonomous transportation. Finally, we have some firm facts from Apple, that conclude that the company has joined the self-driving car race … and it’s all in writing.

Apple's New Stores Have Vehicle Size Sliding Doors

Apple’s New Stores Have Vehicle Size Sliding Doors

Apparently, Apple has put so much time and effort into its research and development of the technology, that it needs to make sure that government regulators will be on board and supportive.  Steve Kenner, Apple’s director of product integrity, sent the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) a five-page letter divulging Apple’s interest and commitment to self-driving cars, potentially as a plea for support. We are not talking about a former employee, or someone with knowledge on the subject, or a leaked rumor. This is the first statement from Apple concerning the company’s interest in transportation. Kenner wrote:

“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. 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 letter essentially begs the NHTSA to be gracious about restrictions on self-driving car testing. Even more interesting is the fact that the letter asks for the agency to be equally fair to “new entrants” to the market. We’re pretty sure that Apple isn’t trying to get the NHTSA to cut Tesla some slack here.

Apple Car Technology Testing Vehicles Have Been Spotted On Numerous Occassions

Apple Car Technology Testing Vehicles Have Been Spotted On Numerous Occassions

Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said that the letter needed to happen due to to Apple’s monumental investment into machine learning and autonomous systems. He shared:

“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.”

In the letter, Apple pointed out that there are particular areas that need extra attention. These include the implications of “algorithmic decisions for the safety, mobility and legality of automated vehicles and their occupants, ensuring privacy and security in design, and the impact of the cars on employment and public spaces.”

Apple isn’t the only automaker that has brought such information and concerns to the forefront. However, prior to this, Apple has been utterly secret about having anything to do with cars, self-driving, testing, etc. On one hand, this can be seen as Apple clearing the path for its future plans, and attempting to “get in good” with the NHTSA. Also, pointing out the greater potential technological concerns, could be an indirect attempt to slow regulators, as Tesla is suddenly moving forward at a very brisk pace. It has always been assumed that if and when Apple comes out of the gate with its product, Tesla would be its biggest competition, and therefore Apple’s “target”.

A few months ago, the Obama administration began to move forward on such regulations, providing a 15-point assessment for checking autonomous vehicle safety. The current expectation is only that automakers will voluntarily submit system information to regulators.

Source: Reuters

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23 responses to "Apple Ready To Join Self-Driving Car Race"

  1. pjwood1 says:

    The “Association” will be very proud of Donald Trump, if his NHTSA delivers.

  2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    Hmmm, wish I could read the entire five-page letter from Apple. From the bits quoted, it still can’t be determined if Apple plans on building an entire “iCar”, or just a suite of “Apple inside” hardware sensors, computers, and control interfaces to install in cars made by one or more existing auto manufacturers.

    1. TomArt says:

      Agreed. I can’t imagine that Apple will actually build a car from scratch, much less multiple models, no matter how many billions in cash they have on hand or how many factories they build in China.

      The language that has been presented to us strongly suggests that they are going for autonomy in many areas, and transportation is just one facet.

    2. tftf says:

      Then read the actual letter, PP:

      https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=NHTSA-2016-0090-1115

      As you can see, darling Tesla is not the only company exploring this space.

      The difference between Apple and Tesla?

      About $250 billion in the bank.

      1. ffbj says:

        It’s not the only difference. Tesla actually makes cars.

        1. tftf says:

          Tesla does not make autonomous cars as of today, they are talking about them (and have some demo videos, as have all big car makers).

          Shipping hardware (without LIDAR, I might add) and without working software is not selling an autonomous car.

          Apple on the other hand keeps VERY quiet until they are ready to launch a working product.

          1. Vexar says:

            Every new Tesla sold today has the Level 5 autonomy hardware. The autopilot hardware is what, a Level 3? Tesla has less money in the bank, but what they do have more than Google and Apple combined is a data center full of orders of magnitude in miles of driving data. Show me something worth looking at in this space, Apple and Google. Tesla could use the competition here! It bothers me that the car can parallel park itself better than I can.

          2. Bacardi says:

            Apple has shipped nothing…I own an iPhone 7 but they’re making lots of mistakes…First they botched the Gen1 Apple watch as they failed to give it advanced sensors or a purpose…Then they botched Apple TV, they botched “project titan” and even the Air Pods…

            Rumors were Apple’s wanted to acquire or invest into McLaren…

        2. mx says:

          With the new Trump admin, GM and Ford are already pulling back their “ambitions”, this leaves a WIDE HOLE Apple could fill.

          Apple, reconsider that Electric Car Project, and inject it with steroids. Aside from Tesla, ( and BMW ) the field is now Wide Open.

        3. none says:

          Isn’t a bunch of that “money in the bank” stuck in other countries because they don’t want to pay tax on it in the USA?

          As of July 2015, Apple had 181 BILLION parked overseas. That is a ton of money, wow! 90% of the money is parked overseas.

          Maybe they are hesitant to spend because all their money is tied up?

  3. AP says:

    Apple is so wonderful, and they are doing it all for the good of the human race. Just look at all the money they’ve given to phillantropic causes. They just want to prevent cars from colliding with each other.

  4. ffbj says:

    Who actually wins in a self-driving car race?

    1. Vexar says:

      Funny! I think some programmers get bragging rights, that’s about it.

    2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Competition, or races, between robots built by student teams to perform specific tasks, is “a thing”.

      As Vexar suggested, the actual winners are the members of the team of engineers and programmers, not the robots themselves.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robot_competition

    3. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven says:

      Siri.

  5. Neil Dunn says:

    The letter from Apple asks for car manufacturers (to be forced to) share their data on autonomous driving safety, for the good of all road users of course. I’m sure the car makers wouldn’t mind giving up data they’ve spent billions creating to Apple for free. Likewise, Apple should give all their data to Samsung, so we can all have better phones.

    1. mx says:

      So, that would be: 1) Tesla, and 2) Google, because they have the most data, in that order.

    2. William says:

      Apple and Samsung sharing,would be a sight to see. The lead for a better phone would probably be better served by side by side competition and in-house innovation.

  6. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    Thanks to tftf for linking indirectly to the actual letter from Apple. Unfortunately, it appears there is no direct link to the online .pdf file.

    However, I do not thank tftf for dragging the conversation off-topic into the weeds of his serial attempts to short-sell Tesl@ stock. Not everything related to EVs is about Tesl@!

    * * * * *

    A couple of interesting quotes from Apple’s letter:

    (1) “That NHTSA and the industry explore Computer Aided Engineering analysis and other simulation methods, such as Human Body Models, as viable means to validate crashworthiness where traditional physical test methods may be limited”

    (2) “To Apple’s knowledge, the exemption process was intended for, and remains focused on, the sale of new motor vehicles to the public—not on the safe and controlled testing of development vehicles on public roads. However, the Policy suggests that
    companies must seek an exemption for public road testing of internal development vehicles not fully compliant with FMVSS.”

    * * * * *

    Quote (1) suggest Apple wants to be able to do crash testing in the computer, rather than use real cars. This is understandable if Apple wants to build, or rather contract to have built for them, a limited number of cars for testing self-driving hardware and software, perhaps similar to Google’s fleet of self-driving cars.

    Quote (2) more directly suggests that Apple’s interest appears to be building (or modifying) and using a limited number of cars used for testing purposes, rather than actually building cars for retail sale.

    All in all, I see nothing here which contradicts what I’ve been asserting ever since the news first broke about Apple’s “Titan” EV project: That it makes sense for Apple to develop “Apple inside” self-driving hardware and software to put into cars made by auto makers, but it makes little if any sense for Apple to enter the business of making cars, a heavy industry notable for requiring very high capital investment yet rather thin profit margins. That would be very far outside their light industry “comfort zone” of making high-end, high profit margin consumer electronics.

  7. William says:

    Apple can bring “Apple Inside” to my next 3 year/45K EV lease. Which manufacturer will be the first to bring Apple “on board”? I would hazard to guess it will be more than one manufacturer signing on to the Apple autonomy band wagon.

  8. JyKiaNiro says:

    Isn’t foxconn building EVs? I remember them poaching executives from BMW i division earlier this year.

  9. Jeff Songster says:

    Glad Apple’s labs are working on this problem… should help to make the controls and behavior of Autonomous driving systems simpler and more effective. Far better UI from them than most others.