Move over, Elon Musk. There’s another Silicon Valley heavy-hitter — actually, the Silicon Valley heavy-hitter — jumping into the self-driving car race.
For the first time, CEO Tim Cook confirmed Apple is working on autonomous driving technology in an interview with Bloomberg.
“We’re focusing on autonomous systems,” said Cook. “It’s a core technology that we view as very important.”
Until now, Apple had kept its car plans tightly under wraps. But “Project Titan,” the Cupertino-based company’s self-driving car division, has more than 1,000 engineers on its team. The project started in 2014.
Although it’s been the subject of many rumors, Apple isn’t working on its own self-driving car — at least right now. Instead, the company is focused on the software that would run inside the cars.
Cook said the venture was “the mother of all [artificial intelligence] projects,” and “probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on.”
News of Apple’s autonomous driving tech had slowly started to slip through the cracks in recent months. In April, Apple was granted a permit from the California DMV to test self-driving cars.
And a letter from an Apple exec to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last December all but spelled out the company’s interest in the growing field — saying the company was “excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.”
Even before the biggest company in the world revealed its interest, self-driving cars had become the next tech battleground. Industry giants Tesla, Uber, and Google have all been testing driverless vehicles in the Bay Area.