Apple letter to NHTSA confirms self-driving car ambitions

Adam Westlake - Dec 4, 2016, 6:00am CST
Apple letter to NHTSA confirms self-driving car ambitions

Just when it seemed like Apple‘s much-rumored self-driving car project was on the verge of collapse, more evidence surfaces that Cupertino still has plans in place. A recent letter from Apple to the US’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been dug up, where the former writes that it 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.”

The letter is from Apple’s Director of Product Integrity Steve Kenner (a former Ford exec) and was addressed to NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind. The main subject of the letter is Apple’s acknowledgement of the agency’s recent guidelines for autonomous car testing, along with their interest in participating and concerns over ethical and regulatory issues.

The two main points that Apple makes are that it feels all members of the car industry participating in autonomous driving tests should share their data on crashes in order to improve overall safety. “By sharing data, the industry will build a more comprehensive dataset than any one company could create alone,” Kenner wrote. However, data privacy should also remain a priority for the NHTSA.

The other issue is that Apple mentions is concerns about equal treatment for “established manufacturers and new entrants.” In other words, just because Apple and other companies may be new to the auto industry, they shouldn’t be subjected to additional regulation or testing over what traditional manufacturers go through.

Note that there’s nothing in the letter that confirms Apple is working on an actual car at the moment, however that mention that they are interested in applying machine learning and automation to transportation means they are likely working on something related to self-driving cars.

Several months back news surfaced that Apple had shifted from work on an actual vehicle to software and other technology that would power autonomous driving, possibly in cars from other manufacturers. The letter to the NHTSA could be evidence that this is still very much the case.

SOURCE Regulations.gov, Reuters
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