Tim Cook Confirms Apple's Focus on Autonomous Driving Systems

Apple CEO Tim Cook has spoken to Bloomberg to clarify for the first time the company's intentions in the automotive market, following several reports in recent months indicating that the company has put its ambitions to build a car on the back-burner.

"We're focusing on autonomous systems," Cook said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. "It's a core technology that we view as very important."

"We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects," Cook said in his most detailed comments to date on Apple's plans in the car space. "It's probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on."

Cook has not been as forthcoming in previous remarks when asked about Apple's car plans, choosing instead to call the automotive space "interesting" because of the potential for new technologies. However recent rumors had converged around the belief that Apple has refocused its car project, which reportedly involved more than 1,000 engineers when it originally began in 2014.

Ballooning costs and a change in management were said to have pushed Apple's car strategy increasingly toward autonomous driving systems, leading to dozens of employees involved in the project being laid off as part of an internal "reboot".

"There is a major disruption looming," Cook told Bloomberg, 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. If you've driven an electric car, it's actually a marvelous experience. "

Cook's comments are particularly timely, following indications that Apple's exclusive focus on self-driving technology has accelerated in recent months.

In April, the company was granted a permit from the California DMV to test self-driving vehicles on public roads, and is rumored to be planning to test its self-driving car software platform in three 2015 Lexus RX450h SUVs. The SUVs have already been spotted out on the road fitted with a range of sensors and cameras.

Apple is thought to have several teams working on different aspects of its automotive software. In Canada, a team of two dozen former BlackBerry QNX customers are said to be developing the base operating system, while another team is working on the software that will run on it, such as a heads-up display and self-driving capabilities.

A report by Bloomberg last October claimed Apple could return to developing its own vehicle in future, or partner with existing carmakers, but given Cook's latest comments, any prospect of an Apple Car seems some way off, at least for now.

"We'll see where it takes us," Cook told Bloomberg most recently when asked about the chances Apple could one day make its own vehicle. "We're not really saying from a product point of view what we will do."

Related Roundup: Apple Car

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
40 months ago
I rather have a car made by say Audi that's powered by Apple technology than a car made by Apple.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
40 months ago

The last thing I would do is to let my car be driving by a software. It is going to fail. In the street you need skills. Is not of what you could do but about what every one else could be doing. On top of that... it is a software with bugs. Would you be riding at 80 MPH on a software?

Machines will fail, certainly. But humans fail at a much higher rate.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
40 months ago

At the ends of the bell curve, where it matters most, humans win. No computer could have ever done what Sulley did.

But the ends of the bell curve are not where it matters most. It matters most in the middle of the bell curve, where the area under the curve is greatest. These everyday driving situations where humans fail regularly are where computer AI is going to save lives and improve efficiency. A "miracle on the Hudson" happens every few decades. Routine crashes due to driver fatigue, human decision making failure, etc happen every single day and take tens of thousands of lives a year in the USA.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
40 months ago

And Apple has neither the discipline or business process to ship relatively bug free software. Its kinda like building a space shuttle. You can't have marketing in absolute control and Ive removing functionality so it can be smaller if you want a product that works reliably. Its also not in Apple's DNA to make products that last more then a couple of years. Won't it be nice to know that you need to replace your car every 3 years to be safe and hacker free.

BS. I know people still using an iPad 2 and using Mac laptops that are 5 or more years old. Product obsolescence is due to the rapid pace of technology improvements not because Apple is shipping poor quality hardware that doesn't last.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
40 months ago

No one. In Life. Has ever asked for self driving cars.

LOL. This push is so bizarre to me. Who in the world would want this? These are like Red Light Cameras.

Ask anyone who has lost a loved one to a drunk driver if they would have preferred that person was not at the wheel of the car.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
40 months ago

This is gonna be hard choice,
- On the one hand the Google car will follow the best directions to ge me there
- but on the other hand the Apple car won't get a virus and crash
[doublepost=1497356406][/doublepost]

Actually most planes land at airports with AI nowadays

Whether you know it or not, all cars drive with software today, some with more, some with less:
- spark timing in engine;
- anti lock brakes;
- traction control;
- swerve, side slip, crosswind control & recovery;
- airbags;
- wipers;
- brake lights;
- hydraulic variable steering;
- electric steering;
- cruise control & radar braking;

If mankind could master the silicon and the bits necessary to deliver the tech that makes you a better driver and safer passenger, why do you think it's beyond them to tie many of these extant systems together to deliver tech that, while not perfect, will massively improve the current state of safety on our roadways?
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple Warns Against Closing MacBooks With a Cover Over the Camera

Friday July 10, 2020 11:12 am PDT by
Apple this month published a support document that warns customers against closing their Mac notebooks with a cover over the camera as it can lead to display damage. Image via Reddit Apple says that the clearance between the display and the keyboard is designed to very tight tolerances, which can be problematic. Covering the camera can also cause issues with automatic brightness and True Tone....

iPhone Users Who Experienced 'Batterygate' Can Now File to Receive Around $25 Settlement From Apple

Monday July 13, 2020 6:50 am PDT by
Earlier this year, Apple agreed to settle a U.S. class action lawsuit that accused the company of "secretly throttling" older iPhone models. Now, eligible iPhone owners are beginning to be notified about their legal rights and options. Under the proposed settlement, Apple will provide a cash payment of approximately $25 to each eligible iPhone owner who submits a claim, with its total payout ...

Apple Moving Forward on Semitransparent Lenses for Upcoming AR Headset

Friday July 10, 2020 7:24 am PDT by
Apple and Foxconn have reached a key milestone in the development of Apple's long-rumored augmented reality headset, with the semitransparent lenses for the device moving from prototype to trial production, reports The Information. Apple is developing the lenses on a single production line at a Foxconn factory in Chengdu in southwestern China, where most of Apple’s iPad production is...

Arm-Intel-PowerPC Universal Binaries Are Possible

Saturday July 11, 2020 1:42 pm PDT by
Casual MacRumors visitors may not realize that we have a very active PowerPC forum where users discuss issues related to PowerPC Macs that have not been produced since 2006. Threads range from hardware upgrades and software options to nostalgia: Photo by AphoticD Apple's recently announced transition to Apple Silicon (Arm) based Macs raised some interesting questions about future support...

Possible 'iPhone 12' Battery Certifications Suggest Lower Capacities Than iPhone 11 Series

Monday July 13, 2020 4:22 am PDT by
MySmartPrice has spotted certifications for three new Apple batteries that it believes could be for the upcoming iPhone 12 lineup, despite them being less capacitive than the batteries in the current iPhone 11 series. The batteries are identified with the model numbers A2471, A2431, and A2466, and appear on Safety Korea, China's 3C, and the Danish agency UL Demko. Apple is expected to...

Leaker: 'iPhone 12 Pro' to Come With 6GB of RAM

Friday July 10, 2020 1:59 am PDT by
Later this year, Apple is expected to release four OLED iPhones in three display sizes, including 5.4, 6.7, and two 6.1-inch models. Rumors suggest the 6.7-inch iPhone and one 6.1-inch model will be higher-end devices, and now leaker @L0vetodream has corroborated previous rumors about the internal specs of Apple's upcoming lineup. Rumors suggest Apple will use 5-nanometer A14 chips in its...

Kuo: Apple Silicon Macs to Include 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air This Year, 14.1-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro Models Next Year

Friday July 10, 2020 2:58 am PDT by
At last month's WWDC, Apple officially announced that its Mac computers will be transitioned from Intel x86 to homegrown Apple Silicon chips. Apple said it plans to deliver the first Apple Silicon Mac by the end of the year and complete the transition in about two years. According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, a 13.3-inch MacBook Pro with a form factor similar to the current 13.3-inch...

Google to 'Dramatically' Improve Chrome Impact on Mac Battery Life

Sunday July 12, 2020 1:56 pm PDT by
Google will address long-standing battery life issues, particularly on Mac devices, reports The Wall Street Journal. Chrome will improve "tab throttling" by better prioritizing active tabs and limiting resource drain from tabs open in the background. This is said to have a "dramatic impact on battery and performance." Google has reportedly been performing early tests on Mac laptops in...

Top Stories: iOS 14 Public Beta, iPhone 12 Size Comparison, 14-Inch MacBook Pro Rumors

Saturday July 11, 2020 6:00 am PDT by
After one round of developer beta testing, Apple unleashed iOS and iPadOS 14 to a wider audience this week, opening it up to members of the public beta program. There are lots of changes and new features to check out, but as with any beta, be careful about installing it on your main devices. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Other major stories this week included our ...

Apple Shares Humorous 'Working-From-Home Thing' Video

Monday July 13, 2020 9:31 am PDT by
Apple today shared a funny video focused on the problems that people working from home have to deal with, including noisy children, chaotic schedules, communication issues, and more. The video focuses on showing off Apple products and their capabilities that can be useful when working from home, such as the ability to scan a document with an iPhone, mark up a PDF, Siri Reminders, and more.The...