LONDON Apple’s plan to build driverless cars has been the subject of rumours for the last two years – now the company has finally admitted it. A letter to the highway regulator in the United States reveals the iPhone maker has got a secret project underway involving transportation. “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,” reads the letter, which came from Apple’s director of product integrity, Steve Kenner. Other technology companies – chiefly Google – are heavily invested in self-driving cars and even have prototypes out on the road. Apple’s five-page letter didn’t give away how far along its driving project way, but stated that there would be “significant societal benefits of automated vehicles”. Apple has already registered several domain names, such as apple.car and apple.auto, that helped fuel the rumours.
The letter proposes that established car manufacturers and new entrants, such as itself, Google and Uber, should be treated equally. Kenner also proposes that the auto industry share data to improve the technology. “By sharing data, the industry will build a more comprehensive dataset than any one company could create alone,” he wrote. “This will allow everyone in the industry to design systems to better detect and respond to the broadest set of nominal and edge-case scenarios. Data sharing should not come at the cost of privacy. Apple believes that companies should invest the resources necessary to protect individuals’ fundamental right to privacy.” So far, Apple already has a car-based system called CarPlay, which lets you use Apple gadgets through the car’s navigation and entertainment system. And experts suggest the tech company is likely more interesting in building software to run a car than manufacturing the vehicle itself. There was previous talk about Apple paying £1.5 billion to acquire British super car maker and Formula 1 team McLaren. But the car maker moved quickly to quash these rumours after they appeared.