Apple CEO Tim Cook Finally Talks Apple's Autonomous Car Ambitions

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After years toiling away in secret on a car project, Apple chief executive Tim Cook has for the first time elaborated on the company’s plans for the automotive market.

“We’re focusing on autonomous systems,” Mr Cook said in a 5 June interview on Bloomberg Television, which amounted to his most detailed comments yet on Apple’s vehicle plans. “It’s a core technology that we view as very important.”

He likened the effort to “the mother of all AI projects,” describing it as “probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on”.

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Apple is making self-driving car systems but not own car

The prospect of self-driving cars has seen a slew of technology companies push into the automobile industry, according to McKinsey & Co. Alphabet’s Waymo unit has signed partnerships with Fiat Chrysler and Lyft to develop the technology, while carmakers from BMW to General Motors have opened sizeable Silicon Valley offices, dedicating hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire autonomous vehicle startups.

Mr Cook has never before openly outlined Apple’s plans, although public filings have surfaced in recent months that provided snapshots of Apple’s efforts. According to Bloomberg News, Apple had initially been seeking to build its own car, before recalibrating those ambitions last year to prioritise the underlying technology for autonomous driving.

The iPhone tech giant had hired more than 1,000 engineers to work on Project Titan, as the car team is known internally, after it started in 2014. Ballooning costs and numbers of employees led to Apple veteran Bob Mansfield being given the reins of the team in 2016. 

Apple secured a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles in April to test three self-driving sports-utility vehicles, photos of which emerged several weeks later.

Half a dozen vehicles had been surreptitiously testing the autonomous technology on public roads in and around the San Francisco Bay area for at least a year, according to someone familiar with Project Titan. Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr declined to comment on how long the company has been conducting road tests.

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Steve Kenner, Apple’s director of product integrity, penned a letter in December to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which revealed the company’s interest in automotive technology. It became public when it was published on a federal website.

In the letter, Mr Kenner wrote about the company’s excitement surrounding the potential for automated systems in fields like transportation. 

“There is a major disruption looming there,” Mr Cook said on Bloomberg Television, citing self-driving technology, electric vehicles and ride-hailing. “You’ve got kind of three vectors of change happening generally in the same time frame.”

Mr Cook was also bullish about the prospects for electric vehicles, a market which last week helped Tesla become the world’s fourth-biggest carmaker by market capitalisation, even as it ranks well outside the top 10 by unit sales.

“It’s a marvellous experience not to stop at the filling station or the gas station,” Mr Cook said.

Gadgets and tech news in pictures

Gadgets and tech news in pictures

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    Designed by Pierpaolo Lazzarini from Italian company Jet Capsule. The I.F.O. is fuelled by eight electric engines, which is able to push the flying object to an estimated top speed of about 120mph.

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    A humanoid robot gestures during a demo at a stall in the Indian Machine Tools Expo, IMTEX/Tooltech 2017 held in Bangalore

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    A humanoid robot gestures during a demo at a stall in the Indian Machine Tools Expo, IMTEX/Tooltech 2017 held in Bangalore

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    Engineers test a four-metre-tall humanoid manned robot dubbed Method-2 in a lab of the Hankook Mirae Technology in Gunpo, south of Seoul, South Korea

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    Engineers test a four-metre-tall humanoid manned robot dubbed Method-2 in a lab of the Hankook Mirae Technology in Gunpo, south of Seoul, South Korea

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    The giant human-like robot bears a striking resemblance to the military robots starring in the movie 'Avatar' and is claimed as a world first by its creators from a South Korean robotic company

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    Engineers test a four-metre-tall humanoid manned robot dubbed Method-2 in a lab of the Hankook Mirae Technology in Gunpo, south of Seoul, South Korea

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    Waseda University's saxophonist robot WAS-5, developed by professor Atsuo Takanishi

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    Waseda University's saxophonist robot WAS-5, developed by professor Atsuo Takanishi and Kaptain Rock playing one string light saber guitar perform jam session

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    A test line of a new energy suspension railway resembling the giant panda is seen in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China

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    A test line of a new energy suspension railway, resembling a giant panda, is seen in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China

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    A concept car by Trumpchi from GAC Group is shown at the International Automobile Exhibition in Guangzhou, China

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    A Mirai fuel cell vehicle by Toyota is displayed at the International Automobile Exhibition in Guangzhou, China

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    A visitor tries a Nissan VR experience at the International Automobile Exhibition in Guangzhou, China

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    A man looks at an exhibit entitled 'Mimus' a giant industrial robot which has been reprogrammed to interact with humans during a photocall at the new Design Museum in South Kensington, London

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    A new Israeli Da-Vinci unmanned aerial vehicle manufactured by Elbit Systems is displayed during the 4th International conference on Home Land Security and Cyber in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv

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    Electrification Guru Dr. Wolfgang Ziebart talks about the electric Jaguar I-PACE concept SUV before it was unveiled before the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California, U.S

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    The Jaguar I-PACE Concept car is the start of a new era for Jaguar. This is a production preview of the Jaguar I-PACE, which will be revealed next year and on the road in 2018

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    Japan's On-Art Corp's CEO Kazuya Kanemaru poses with his company's eight metre tall dinosaur-shaped mechanical suit robot 'TRX03' and other robots during a demonstration in Tokyo, Japan

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    Japan's On-Art Corp's eight metre tall dinosaur-shaped mechanical suit robot 'TRX03'

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    Japan's On-Art Corp's eight metre tall dinosaur-shaped mechanical suit robot 'TRX03' performs during its unveiling in Tokyo, Japan

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    Singulato Motors co-founder and CEO Shen Haiyin poses in his company's concept car Tigercar P0 at a workshop in Beijing, China

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    The interior of Singulato Motors' concept car Tigercar P0 at a workshop in Beijing, China

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    Singulato Motors' concept car Tigercar P0

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    A picture shows Singulato Motors' concept car Tigercar P0 at a workshop in Beijing, China

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    Connected company president Shigeki Tomoyama addresses a press briefing as he elaborates on Toyota's "connected strategy" in Tokyo. The Connected company is a part of seven Toyota in-house companies that was created in April 2016

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    A Toyota Motors employee demonstrates a smartphone app with the company's pocket plug-in hybrid (PHV) service on the cockpit of the latest Prius hybrid vehicle during Toyota's "connected strategy" press briefing in Tokyo

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    An exhibitor charges the battery cells of AnyWalker, an ultra-mobile chasis robot which is able to move in any kind of environment during Singapore International Robo Expo

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    A robot with a touch-screen information apps stroll down the pavillon at the Singapore International Robo Expo

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    An exhibitor demonstrates the AnyWalker, an ultra-mobile chasis robot which is able to move in any kind of environment during Singapore International Robo Expo

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    Robotic fishes swim in a water glass tank displayed at the Korea pavillon during Singapore International Robo Expo

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    An employee shows a Samsung Electronics' Gear S3 Classic during Korea Electronics Show 2016 in Seoul, South Korea

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    Visitors experience Samsung Electronics' Gear VR during the Korea Electronics Grand Fair at an exhibition hall in Seoul, South Korea

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    Amy Rimmer, Research Engineer at Jaguar Land Rover, demonstrates the car manufacturer's Advanced Highway Assist in a Range Rover, which drives the vehicle, overtakes and can detect vehicles in the blind spot, during the first demonstrations of the UK Autodrive Project at HORIBA MIRA Proving Ground in Nuneaton, Warwickshire

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    Chris Burbridge, Autonomous Driving Software Engineer for Tata Motors European Technical Centre, demonstrates the car manufacturer's GLOSA V2X functionality, which is connected to the traffic lights and shares information with the driver, during the first demonstrations of the UK Autodrive Project at HORIBA MIRA Proving Ground in Nuneaton, Warwickshire

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    Ford EEBL Emergency Electronic Brake Lights is demonstrated during the first demonstrations of the UK Autodrive Project at HORIBA MIRA Proving Ground in Nuneaton, Warwickshire

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    Full-scale model of 'Kibo' on display at the Space Dome exhibition hall of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Tsukuba Space Center, in Tsukuba, north-east of Tokyo, Japan

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    Miniatures on display at the Space Dome exhibition hall of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Tsukuba Space Center, in Tsukuba, north-east of Tokyo, Japan. In its facilities, JAXA develop satellites and analyse their observation data, train astronauts for utilization in the Japanese Experiment Module 'Kibo' of the International Space Station (ISS) and develop launch vehicles

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    The robot developed by Seed Solutions sings and dances to the music during the Japan Robot Week 2016 at Tokyo Big Sight. At this biennial event, the participating companies exhibit their latest service robotic technologies and components

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    The robot developed by Seed Solutions sings and dances to music during the Japan Robot Week 2016 at Tokyo Big Sight

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    Government and industry are working together on a robot-like autopilot system that could eliminate the need for a second human pilot in the cockpit

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    Aurora Flight Sciences' technicians work on an Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automantion System (ALIAS) device in the firm's Centaur aircraft at Manassas Airport in Manassas, Va.

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    Stefan Schwart and Udo Klingenberg preparing a self-built flight simulator to land at Hong Kong airport, from Rostock, Germany

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Apple invested $1bn last year in Didi Chuxing, the biggest Chinese ride-hailing service. The announcement came soon after Mansfield took over Project Titan and set about cutting hundreds of engineers.

Whereas Apple had initially been building its own car, Mansfield scrapped those plans in favour of building an autonomous driving system. The company will make a decision on whether to proceed with the push later this year, the people said at the time.

“Apple has long been the wild card in the autonomous car game,” said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Autotrader. “Now we know Apple is all in, and, judging by its track record in other areas, it will be a force. Apple’s strategy to commercialise autonomous vehicles remains to be seen – will they partner and sell the technology or actually develop their own vehicles?”

In the interview on Bloomberg Television, Mr Cook was hesitant to disclose whether Apple will ultimately manufacture its own car. “We’ll see where it takes us,” Mr Cook said. “We’re not really saying from a product point of view what we will do.”

Bloomberg

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Source : http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/apple-self-driving-cars-tim-cook-ceo-launch-driverless-autonomous-system-tech-ai-a7788871.html

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