Apple reveals autonomous car plans

It seems motorists have been clamouring for news about Apple’s foray into the automobile game for quite some time.

From long ago speculation that it was going to buy Tesla out, and quotes from Ford that they were working on self-driving cars on the basis that Apple was building one, all the way to rumours they had ditched research and development on autonomous driving due to the expense, nothing but rumour and heresy seemed to exist.

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The rumours can (somewhat) come to rest now thanks to a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in America, where the company acknowledges a statement of intent – however it shouldn’t be seen as a guarantee that Apple is developing a production vehicle.

According to a BBC report, Apple said it was "excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation" and added that there were "significant societal benefits of automated vehicles.”

The tech firm has already registered several car-related domains, including apple.car and apple.auto, and the letter to NHTSA was prompted by its "heavy investment in machine learning and autonomous systems" with the company stating that it wanted to help define best practices in the industry.

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The five-page letter, written by Apple's director of product integrity Steve Kenner, goes further by asking the regulator not to introduce too many rules on the testing of self-driving cars, saying that "established manufacturers and new entrants should be treated equally."

It also proposes a sharing economy among companies so that data from crashes and near-misses can be used by everyone to build a safer and more comprehensive tech than one company could manage alone, therefore helping everyone design better systems.

[There are] significant societal benefits of automated vehicles.

With privacy such a hot topic lately, the letter also adds that an individual's privacy should not be compromised by the sharing of any crash data and suggests that the industry and regulators "address privacy challenges associated with the collection, use, and sharing of automated vehicle data.”

Whether this all means Apple is positioning itself as a supplier of autonomous driving software to manufacturers rather than building cars itself is yet to be confirmed.

While Apple had previously applied to test its own car, Google has been testing self-driving cars on the roads of San Francisco for many years now, and in October Elon Musk announced that all new Teslas will be fitted with hardware that’s capable of autonomy.

It’s not all state-side innovation either. In the summer Milton Keynes was home to its own autonomous vehicle test-drive when Oxbotica trialled their own tech.

Despite all of this, the UK public don’t seem to have the same enthusiasm for self-driving cars as the big companies do. In a survey last year, Adrian Flux found that just over 70 per cent of UK motorists are opposed to driverless cars. Where do you stand on the issue?

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