Apple hints at autonomous car foray, looks to compete with incumbent manufacturers

By Adamya Sharma | Updated Dec 29 2016
Apple hints at autonomous car foray, looks to compete with incumbent manufacturers

The Cupertino tech giant has admitted that it is making heavy investments in machine learning and automation directed towards the transportation industry.

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Apple Inc has finally and officially hinted at the possibility of entering the autonomous vehicle space with a recent regulatory filing made to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the US. The Cupertino based tech company wrote to NHTSA appealing the US government to remove restrictive sanctions on the controlled testing of autonomous vehicles. The filing which was uncovered by Venturebeat shows Apple’s intentions of building and testing self driving vehicles and the company says that it has already invested heavily in the machine learning and automation space.

The filing by Steve Kenner, Director of Product Integrity at Apple reads as follows:
"Apple uses machine learning to make its products and services smarter, more intuitive, and more personal. 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." 
Stressing on the promising potential of autonomous vehicles Kenner wrote, “Executed properly under NHTSA’s guidance, automated vehicles have the potential to greatly enhance the human experience—to prevent millions of car crashes and thousands of fatalities each year and to give mobility to those without. It is vital that those developing and deploying automated vehicles follow rigorous safety principles in design and production. Such principles should not, however, inhibit companies from making consequential progress; there is no need to compromise safety or innovation.” Addressing vehicular safety guidelines suggested in the proposed Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, Apple noted that companies in the autonomous vehicles space should share data from crashes and near misses with each other. According to Apple, this will help the industry “build a more comprehensive dataset than any one company could create alone. 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. Apple looks forward to collaborating with other stakeholders to define the specific data that should be shared.” 
In addition, Apple is also seeking equal treatment for manufacturers of autonomous cars with incumbent car makers. The filing states, “To maximize the safety benefits of automated vehicles, encourage innovation, and promote fair competition, established manufacturers and new entrants should be treated equally.” If given consideration, this policy could pave the way for stiff competition in the auto sector, in the driverless future. It could also set a precedent in industry practices for other countries looking to transition to an autonomous vehicular system going forward.

Back in February 2015, a report from Business Insider had indicated that Apple's project will “change the landscape and give Tesla a run for its money.” Another report from Bloomberg hinted that Apple may be looking to launch electric vehicles by 2020, not necessarily autonomous cars. While such rumours have been circulating the web for a while, there is no set timeline to these plans. However, it is important to note that with this move Apple will be entering an arena where Google has had years of experience. The state of the driverless car industry though still hangs in the balance as governments and regulators argue safety and viability guidelines for the same. 


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Adamya Sharma

Managing editor, - News Junkie, Movie Buff, Tech Whizz!

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