While reports of Apple’s work on electric and self-driving cars have been surfacing for years, CEO Tim Cook has been careful about not confirming or denying any detail.
But he now makes rare comments on Apple’s effort in developing self-driving cars, which he referred to as “a core technology” for the company.
Cook made the comment in an interview with Bloomberg on the sidelines of the WWDC conference last week – embedded below:
“There is a major disruption looming there […] We’re focusing on autonomous systems, and clearly one purpose of autonomous systems is self-driving cars. There are others, and 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. And so autonomy is something that’s incredibly exciting for us.”
It has been clear that Apple is working on self-driving tech since they obtained a permit to test self-driving cars in California in April.
What is less clear is what Apple plans to do with their technology.
Cook still refused to confirm whether or not the Cupertino company plans to build a vehicle:
“We’ll see where it takes us. We’re not really saying from a product point of view what we will do.”
The company has been using a custom hardware suite with cameras, radar, and lidar sensors on Lexus RX450h SUVs (pictured above via Bloomberg) in order to develop their self-driving software.
It looks like they could be aiming for a business model similar to Alphabet’s Waymo, meaning to develop the self-driving tech and incorporate it into other vehicles with their other automotive products, like Apple car.
They are only operating a small fleet at the moment, which places them behind competitors in the field, like Tesla, Waymo, GM Cruise, and others, but Cook makes it sound like they are serious about it.
And if Apple is serious about something, they have a lot of resources to make it happen.
He ties the project, which led by Apple veteran Bob Mansfield, with Apple’s broader AI effort:
“It’s the mother of all AI projects, it’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on.”
Here’s the interview: