Tech

Is Apple Working On Self-Driving Car Project?

By Victor Thomson , Dec 05, 2016 01:56 AM EST
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Apple shows signs that is working to get into driverless car race. (Photo : Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

Apple has been secretive about its plans to build a self-driving car, but now the tech company has sent a strong hint about its Project Titan.

Apple's Letter to NHTSA

The tech giant Apple states in a letter submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it is investing heavily in the study of automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning and is interested in exploring the potential of automated systems in various fields, including transportation. According to The Verge, the letter comes as an official response from Apple to the federal government's automated vehicle guidelines that were released last September. The regulations have already drawn feedback from several companies working on self-driving cars, including Ford and Google.

While the company has never acknowledged it formally, it is rumored that tech giant Apple has been already working on Project Titan for several years. Lately, it seems that the self-driving car project has been changed. Recent reports are suggesting that, due to strong competitions coming from companies such as Tesla, Apple is no longer attempting to build its own electric car but is instead focused on developing self-driving software. The company aims to deploy its specialized software in partnership with existing vehicle makers.

The letter sent to NHTSA comes amid news that Apple reassigned or let go hundreds of members of its 1,000-employee-strong car team. After earlier this year former project head Steven Zadesky left the company, Apple longtime executive Bob Mansfield came out of retirement especially to assume the leading role of the Titan division. The shift toward software is part o Bob Mansfield's new plan for the Project Titan.

Apple's Vision On Autonomous Driving

According to Reuters, this five-page letter from Steve Kenner, Apple's director of product integrity, to the NHTSA is the most comprehensive statement yet about company's interest in autonomous driving technology. The Nov. 22 letter comes after more than a year of industry speculation about Apple's plans for expanding into transportation.

Kenner wrote that self-driving vehicles have the potential to prevent each year millions of car crashes and thousands of fatalities, to greatly enhance the human experience and to give mobility to those without. But Apple urged federal regulators to not implement too many restrictions on testing of autonomous cars, adding that new entrants, as well as established manufacturers in the field, should all be treated equally.

Apple said that it is necessary to give certain areas some special attention since in potentially dangerous situations software would decide what actions to take. These include ensuring security and privacy in design, the implications of algorithmic decisions for the legality, mobility, and safety of self-driving vehicles and their occupants and the impact of the cars on public spaces and employment.

Millions of jobs will be lost once autonomous cars largely replace taxi, truck and Uber drivers, according to analysts. The experts also forecast that self-driving technology will eliminate the need for insurance adjusters, most vehicle repairs, and other functions.

According to company spokesman Tom Neumayr, Apple's letter was prompted by its heavy investment in autonomous systems and machine learning. These technologies have many potential applications, including the future of transportation. For this reason, Apple wants to work with NHTSA in order to help define the industry's best practices.

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