Apple has shed new light on its top-secret driverless car project, as chief executive Tim Cook described the challenge of building autonomous vehicles. While that's not quite the same as the company announcing it will build its own self-driving vehicles, it does mark the entrance of a major new player into the industry.
Cook said Apple was working on resources into developing technology to control driverless vehicles, although he refused to rule out the Silicon Valley firm building its own car at some point. The Apple boss spoke as shares in his company and other US tech firms came under pressure this week amid investor concerns that a sector-wide boom is losing steam.
Known internally as "Project Titan," the effort includes the work of more than 1,000 engineers since it was launched in 2014. Cook said in a television interview that the company is focusing more on the core technology required for an autonomous system, rather than on developing an entire vehicle itself.
“We’re focusing on autonomous systems,” said Cook in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “Clearly one purpose of autonomous systems is self-driving cars. There are others. We sort of see it as the mother of all AI [artificial intelligence] projects.” He added: “It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on.”
It is not clear what that means from a product standpoint. Cook seemed to suggest in the interview that Apple is more concerned about the AI (artificial intelligence) that would be used to power an autonomous vehicle instead of creating a new Apple product. That might mean that the company plans to license its autonomous vehicle AI to car manufacturers, such as Tesla and Ford, rather than building its own iCar.