Apple CEO Tim Cook finally revealed details about the company’s elusive self-driving car project in an interview published Tuesday by Bloomberg.
“We’re focusing on autonomous systems,” said Cook. “We sort of see it as the mother of all AI [artificial intelligence] projects. It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on.”
Cook and the tech conglomerate in general have been very hush about its potential involvement in the automotive industry until this point.
“Autonomy is something that’s incredibly exciting for us. And uh, we’ll see where it takes us,” Cook continued. “We are not really saying in a product point of view what we will do. But we are being straightforward that it’s a core technology that we view as very important.”
Apple laid off dozens of employees last year who were part of their driverless car initiative, according to The New York Times, which ostensibly signaled it was throwing in the proverbial white towel.
But soon after, there were reports in September that Apple was possibly teaming up with the luxury sports car company McLaren, after the two businesses engaged in discussions. It also allegedly poached engineers from Lit Motors, a startup that developed an electric self-balancing motorcycle.
At first, Apple seemed to be trying to build its own autonomously functioning car, but later decided to mostly focus on creating the fundamental technology, according to Bloomberg.
“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,” Steve Kenner, Apple’s director of product integrity, wrote in a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, offering the company’s thoughts on possible federal guidelines.
“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.” (RELATED: Distracted Driving Is A Huge Problem, And Autonomous Cars Could Help)
The tech giant is presumably trying to keep up to speed with the rest of the global business community’s autonomous vehicle initiatives, like Google, Uber, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, and the Chinese-backed Faraday Future. Several other firms are developing the revolutionary technology as well.
All of these corporations, including Apple, appear to realize that people will spend a lot of extra money for their car to drive itself. The average person is willing to spend $4,900 more for a car that has driverless technologies, with some potential consumers saying they would be prepared to pay more than $10,000 extra, according to a study conducted by researchers at Cornell University.
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