It’s no secret that Apple has had an interest in the automotive market for the past few years. The company hired several high-profile auto industry veterans and was believed to be working on a full-fledged electric vehicle from the ground up, but later on it reportedly scaled down plans and shifted focus to self-driving software. Officially, Apple has never acknowledged any of this, but in a recent interview with Bloomberg, CEO Tim Cook finally confirmed they’re “focusing on autonomous systems.”
Cook doesn’t go into details as to what these automotive systems entail and notes that they’re not ready to discuss an actual product. He calls it “the mother of all AI projects”, and adding a bit of ambiguity, he also mentions that there are other purposes for autonomous systems beyond self driving cars. “We're not really saying from a product point of view what we will do, but we are being straightforward that it's a core technology that we view is very important,” Tim Cook told Bloomberg.
Tim Cook noted that self-driving technology is just one of three “vectors of change” that will come to fruition in the near future. The other two, he says, are ride-sharing and electrification.
On the ride sharing front Apple made a $1 billion investment last year in Didi Chuxing, the biggest Chinese ride-hailing service. Tim Cook called the move strategic for a number of reasons, including a chance to learn more about certain segments of the Chinese market.
Apple's self-driving car efforts are known internally as "Project Titan” and more than 1,000 engineers were reportedly involved at some point since 2014. More recently, the company secured a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles in April to test three self-driving sports-utility vehicles, which were soon after spotted in on the streets — they were Lexus cars with Velodyne sensors.