Apple CEO Tim Cook Confirms Development Under Way For Autonomous Vehicle Control System

Up until now, one of the worst kept secrets in the tech industry was Apple's involvement in an autonomous vehicle program. Job listings and occasional leaks made it unofficially clear that Apple was cooking something up in the self-driving car space, and now Apple boss Tim Cook has come out and confirmed what we knew all along—Apple is invested in self-driving technology

"We're focusing on autonomous systems," Cook told Bloomberg in an interview earlier this month. "It's a core technology that we view as important. Cook added that autonomous vehicle technology is "sort of the mother of all AI projects" and "probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on."

Apple Car

That is true from a number of different angles, not the least of which is the life and death implications of getting the technology right. We have already seen how the technology can be fatal when it fails to properly recognize its surroundings—a 2015 Tesla Model S struck and 18-wheeler when the tractor trailer crossed in front of the vehicle. Tesla's autopilot sensors were thrown off by the semi-truck's white side blending in with a brightly lit sky. Both the autopilot system and the vehicle's driver, Joshua Brown, failed to apply the brake, which proved fatal for Brown.

While accidents will inevitably happen, the vast majority of them involving self-driving vehicles have been caused by human error. It's a promising field, and one that estimated to be worth $6.7 trillion by 2030. As such, it is easy to see why Apple is pouring researcher and development resources into an autonomous driving system. Apple is not alone in this regard, either—autonomous vehicle technology has attracted a slew of technology firms and automakers, including Alphabet, Fiat Chrysler, BMW, General Motors, Ford, and others.

In the early going, Apple originally wanted to build its own self-driving car. Apple reported altered those plans last year and shifted gears to developing the underlying technology, presumably with hopes of licensing it out to automakers once the technology is ready. It could also be used among ride hailing services, which is something that has already undergone limited testing by Uber.

In addition to its self-driving car program, Apple might also decide to dabble with electric vehicle technology. Cook talked about the two technologies being intertwined, along with ride hailing squeezing into the equation.

"There is major disruption looming there," Cook said of autonomous vehicle technology, electric vehicles, and ride hailing. "You've got kind of three vectors of change happening generally in the same time frame.

Where Apple goes from here is anyone's guess. While it was reported that Apple shifted gears away from developing its own car, Cook was not willing to say that Apple would never do such a thing. We will just have to wait and see.

Thumbnail Image Source: Flickr (iphonedigital)