Apple and its pursuit for Self-Driving Cars

In a recent interview that Tim Cook gave to interview that Tim Cook gave to Bloomberg, he explained that he sees “three vectors of change” in the automotive sector—in the shape of autonomy, electrification, and ride-hailing. Combined, he says, they will bring about “a major disruption” in the industry. He also did mention that Apple is specifically “focusing on autonomous systems” for cars. “It’s a core technology that we view as very important,” he said. “We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects. It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on.”

The iPhone maker secured a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles in April to test three self-driving sports-utility vehicles, photos of which emerged several weeks later. In another instance, a letter written to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealing the company’s interest in automotive technology became public when published on a federal website.

In the past, Apple was not presumed to be in the race for machine learning and most of its later consumer products to use AI still play second fiddle to those produced by Google and Facebook. But the recent appointment of the firm’s first AI director, Ruslan Salakhutdinov, looks like a promise for change.

Though Apple is clearly working with sensors and AI software for autonomous vehicles, Cook’s description of Apple’s work on autonomous systems in the automotive sector appears to be vague. Cook doesn’t commit to what the result of all this work might look like. “We’re not really saying from a product point of view what we will do,” he said. 

Apple is all in the car game but if it plans to commercialize autonomous vehicles, that remains to be seen.