Apple is working on autonomous systems
Apple CEO Tim Cook has clarified the company’s plans to crack into the autonomous automotive industry — kind of.
His comments in a cryptic interview with Bloomberg last week were still remarkably vague: Apple is not building autonomous cars, but rather, autonomous systems.
The long, winding road to autonomous cars
In recent years, almost all the big names in tech have been hard at work trying to create the first successful self-driving cars–Google, Uber and Tesla, to name a few. Apple, too, originally had a plan to build its own car. The endeavor was known as Project Titan, and it was comprised of a thousand employees and a goal to revolutionize the automotive market the same way the iPhone revolutionized cell phones a decade ago.
Needless to say, the project was not completed.
Disagreements around the project’s direction led most of the team to abandon Project Titan, slowing its progress. Bob Mansfield, the original iPad developer, was responsible for taking the wheel and shifting the gears, so to speak, of Project Titan, pivoting the project from strictly automobile-focused to instead developing core technology for an autonomous platform.
However, the pivot does not rule out the construction of cars later on.
In Cook’s interview he described the company’s work in artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomy without specifying any actual product, but what will this technology be used for? One could assume Apple aims to perfect self-driving systems before going forth with a vehicle.
Cook’s intentionally elusive statements just heighten anticipation and intrigue around the project.
Leading many to piece together scraps of evidence in hopes of revealing some truth before it’s announced. For example, last year Apple hired Blackberry’s former head of automotive software, invested $1 billion in a Chinese ride-hailing company called Didi Chuxing, which recently opened an autonomous AI lab in Mountain View.
Then last December, Apple sent a letter to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration mentioning how excited they are about automation in various fields, “including transportation.” It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to connect the dots here.
Taking the turtle approach
Without revealing specifics, Cook described autonomous systems as “probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on.” Perhaps such dedication to the systems themselves is the key to a successful self-driving car.
Competitors aren’t taking the time to focus on core technology, instead forging ahead in attempts to crank out cars before anyone else. Maybe in this case, slow and steady will win the race.