Apple has almost acknowledged it is working on autonomous vehicles, writing a letter to U.S. regulators offering feedback on proposed guidelines for the emerging technology.
Apple in a statement issued to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in November proposed a policy update that would grant industry newcomers the same opportunities as established manufacturers when it comes to testing on public roads.
The proposed policy was introduced by the Department of Transportation and the NHTSA in September as a set of regulations designed to govern the coming driverless car future, a scenario that could see technology firms like Apple and Google intermingle with the likes of Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen.
In the letter, Apple director of product integrity Steve Kenner confirms that Apple is interested in bringing machine learning and automation tech to the personal transportation arena. Kenner says at least three ethical dimensions require attention: implications of artificial decision making on safety, mobility, and legality; ensuring privacy and security in automated vehicle design; and the impact driverless vehicles will have on the public good, for example employment.
Apple suggests open sharing of anonymized data from crashes, near-misses and the similar incidents toward the construction of a comprehensive dataset to be accessible by all industry players. Such collaborative methods would help carmakers design and deploy increasingly accurate driverless systems, Apple says.
Rumors of Apple's interest in creating a branded car surfaced early last year. Dubbed Project Titan, the project was reportedly staffed by more than 1,000 engineers and other personnel working out of top secret labs in California some of whom were pulled from important consumer product teams.
Project Titan ran into trouble last September when sources said top executives expressed displeasure with the group's slow progress.
According to the most recent rumblings, Apple has pivoted away from a self-driving car platform and is now focusing on the development of autonomous vehicle software and supporting hardware.