Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, has confirmed the tech giant is working on autonomous vehicle technology.
In an interview with Bloomberg Television recorded at last week’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Cook admitted, “We’re focusing on autonomous [driving] systems.”
Looking into his crystal ball, Cook says there’s a “major disruption looming” for the automotive industry, thanks to ride sharing, self-driving technology, and electric vehicles, which he described as a “marvellous experience”.
For Apple, Cook believes self-driving vehicle systems are a “core technology that we view as very important” and described the challenge as “the mother of all AI projects”.
When speaking about whether the company was looking to produce its own car, the Apple CEO was less forthcoming, simply saying: “We’ll see where it takes us. We’re not really saying from a product point of view what we will do.”
Although Apple’s work in this field is about as a secret as the fact that WWE isn’t a real sporting competition, this is the first time a senior executive from the typically secretive firm has publicly discussed its self-driving technology efforts.
Known internally as Project Titan since 2014, news has been circulating about Apple’s autonomous vehicle ambitions for a few years now, with reports indicating it was initially planning to develop its own self-driving electric car.
At one stage, the project was being worked on by up to 1000 engineers. Late last year, though, sources told Bloomberg Apple had scaled back the project to focus on underlying autonomous vehicle technology because of spiralling costs, management changes and departures from the engineering team.
Above: An early Apple development mule.
Within the last year, the company has gained approval to test its autonomous vehicle technology on public roads in the US.
In December, a letter emerged from Apple to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), where the company sought clarification about the agency’s reporting requirements. More recently, Apple asked the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to relax its public reporting requirements.
Apple also has skin in the ride sharing game via last year’s investment of US$1 billion ($1.3 billion) in Didi Chuxing, a service primarily focussed on China.