Apple CEO Admits to Autonomous Car Project

Posted on June 13, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, iOS, Mobile with 28 Comments

Apple CEO Admits to Autonomous Car Project

Apple CEO Tim Cook had his Perestroika moment this week when he opened up about a secret autonomous car project that his firm has been working on.

Mr. Cook, tear down this wall.

“We’re focusing on autonomous [car] systems,” Mr. Cook said during a Bloomberg interview. “We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects, [and] it’s probably one of the most difficult A.I. projects actually to work on.”

A public admission like this is rare for Apple, but perhaps this is part of a broader plan to slowly open up the company in these post-Steve Jobs years. Cook has opened up parts of iOS, which one might consider Apple’s crown jewels, by building extensibility into the system. And more recently, it has been open about its mistakes, first by apologizing for its lack of Mac Pro updates, and more recently by quickly revving its lackluster new MacBook Pro laptops.

That said, Apple’s car project was perhaps the least secret of Apple’s secret projects. So Cook is essentially confirming something that we already knew.

But he also explains why Apple is so concerned with this technology. And it seems to boil down to the company not missing a major tech wave, similar to the discussions we’ve had around Microsoft and other platform makers.

“There is a major disruption looming there,” he said, “not only for self-driving cars, but also the electrification [of cars]. If you’ve driven an all-electric car, it’s actually a marvelous experience. And it’s a marvelous experience not to stop at the gas station. Plus, you have ride-sharing on top of this. So you’ve got three vectors of change happening generally in the same time frame.”

As Cook notes above, Apple is focusing on the autonomous systems part of this, but he also notes that self-driving cars are only a subset of that part as well, though he doesn’t elaborate on that.

“Autonomy is something that is incredibly exciting for us,” he says. “But we’ll see where it takes us. We’re not really saying, from a product point of view, what we will do. But we are being straightforward that it is a core technology that we view as very important.”


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