A letter sent last month to U.S. transportation officials offers some insight into Apple’s plans for the growing self-driving vehicle market.
The letter from Steve Kenner, director of product integrity at Apple, addresses the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy crafted by the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration (NHTSA).
“The company 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,” Kenner wrote in the letter of Apple’s ambitions.
Kenner said Apple supports a proposal that companies share “de-identified” data from crashes or near-misses to help improve self-driving technology, but warns the policy must take consumers’ privacy into account.
“Data sharing should not come at the cost of privacy,” said Kenner. “Apple believes that companies should invest the resources necessary to protect individuals’ fundamental right to privacy.”
Kenner says Apple also backs simulation methods to determine how vehicles would fare in a crash, and a variety of analytical processes to identify and fix any potential safety or cybersecurity issues early in development.
Apple has never confirmed it is working on autonomous software or a self-driving vehicle. The tech giant has long been rumored to be working on its own vehicle as part of an initiative dubbed Project Titan. In July, Bloomberg reported Apple was shifting its focus toward creating its own autonomous driving system. In September, a report from The New York Times claimed Apple has laid off employees of its automotive team.
Other companies have already confirmed plans to create their own self-driving vehicles. Two months ago, Tesla revealed it would create its own fully self-driving electric cars. Google and Ford also have plans for autonomous vehicles.
One of the primary concerns over self-driving cars is whether they’re safe enough to use. This year, some Tesla vehicle owners have claimed their cars crashed while the car’s Autopilot self-driving system was engaged.
Tesla is working on a next generation of Autopilot offering 360 degrees of visibility and updated sensors capable of detecting objects on the road more accurately.