Tim Cook finally confirms Apple car plans


After years toiling away in secret on a car project, Apple chief executive Tim Cook has for the first time elaborated on the company's plans in the automotive market.

"We're focusing on autonomous systems," Cook said in an interview that amounted to his most detailed comments yet on Apple's automotive plans.

"It's a core technology that we view as very important."

He likened the effort to "the mother of all AI projects," saying it's "probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on."

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The prospect of self-driving cars has seen a slew of technology companies push into the auto industry.

Apple had initially been seeking to build its own car, before recalibrating those ambitions last year to prioritise the underlying technology for autonomous driving.

Tim Cook: "It's a core technology that we view as very important."

Tim Cook: "It's a core technology that we view as very important."

The iPhone maker had hired more than 1000 engineers to work on Project Titan, as the car team is known internally, after it started in 2014.

Ballooning costs and headcount led to Apple veteran Bob Mansfield being given the reins of the team in 2016.

Cook has never before openly outlined Apple's plans, though public filings have surfaced in recent months that provided snapshots of Apple's efforts.

The iPhone maker secured a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles in April to test three self-driving sports-utility vehicles, photos of which emerged several weeks later.

A half-dozen vehicles had been surreptitiously testing the autonomous technology on public roads in and around the San Francisco Bay area for at least a year, according to someone familiar with Project Titan.

Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr declined to comment on how long the company has been conducting road tests.

"There is a major disruption looming there," Cook said, 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."

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Cook was also bullish about the prospects for electric vehicles.

"It's a marvellous experience not to stop at the filling station or the gas station," Cook said.

Whereas Apple had initially been building its own car, Mansfield scrapped those plans in favour of building an autonomous driving system. The company will make a decision on whether to proceed with the push later this year, the people said at the time.

In the interview on Bloomberg Television, Cook was hesitant to disclose whether Apple will ultimately manufacture its own car. "We'll see where it takes us," Cook said. "We're not really saying from a product point of view what we will do."

 - Bloomberg


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