For the first time, Apple CEO Tim Cook has confirmed that the iPhone-maker is building the technology to power self-driving cars. In an interview with Bloomberg, Cook said that the firm is currently “focusing on autonomous systems” — rather than, say, a car stamped with the Apple logo — and that this could be used for many different purposes.
“We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects,” said Cook. “Autonomy is something that’s incredibly exciting for us, but we’ll see where it will take us. We’re not really saying from a product point of view what we’ll do, but we’re being straightforward that it’s a core technology we view as very important.”
Apple’s interest in autonomous vehicles has been something of an open secret in Silicon Valley. Rumors about the company’s efforts (codenamed Project Titan, and reportedly started in 2014) have been swirling for years. More recently, documents have emerged that clearly show Apple’s involvement in the technology, including the publication this April of a permit for the company to test self-driving cars in California.
Apple reportedly hired more than 1,000 engineers to work on Project Titan, but was forced to tweak its focus. In October last year, it was reported that the company had shrunk the team’s ambitions, from attempting to compete directly with the likes of Tesla by building the company’s own electric car, to focusing more on the software side of things. This interview with Cook confirms that this is Apple’s priority.
Whatever the company’s final goal, it is now, at least, being a bit more candid about its interest. Cook told Bloomberg that Apple sees the car industry as ripe for disruption, and noted that self-driving technology is just one of three “vectors of change” that will come to fruition in the near future. The other two, he says, are ride-sharing and electrification. “If you’ve driven an all-electric car it’s actually a marvelous experience,” said the Apple chief.