No new car, but Apple is definitely working on autonomous vehicle OS

Tim Cook recently opened up on one of Apple’s most highly anticipated projects: autonomous cars. For the first time, during an interview with Bloomberg Television, Tim Cook revealed that Apple has been working on autonomous systems. This includes the type of autonomous technology powering self-driving cars and other autonomous vehicles.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Apple is anywhere close to announcing a product. Furthermore, working on autonomy systems does not mean there will be Apple branded cars rolling down the highway in the foreseeable future, either. The word “systems” is very important.

See also: Apple receives permit to test self-driving cars in California

Apple could realistically license its autonomous system to existing manufacturers like Ford, Kia, GM, and others that they could use to add the technology to their vehicles. Apple already does something similar with its CarPlay system, adding Siri and making available additional app functionality from the driver’s iPhone.

Hardware, software…or both?

Then again, Apple has long been known for creating closed, all-inclusive systems that include hardware and software in one package. An actual Apple-branded vehicle designed from the ground up by Apple’s team is not totally out of the question, but reports nearly a year ago indicated that Apple was focusing more on software than hardware.

Apple has been rumored to be working on this technology for quite some time. In April, it received a permit to test self-driving vehicles in California. The vehicle Apple was using to test its technology? A Lexus RX450h SUV. This puts Apple in good company, as both Alphabet’s Waymo and Zoox are using the same model in their road tests.

It’s hard to say exactly when Apple will have something worth announcing to the public. Autonomous vehicles are hard, and companies like Google (now Waymo) have been working on them for nearly a decade.

In the Bloomberg interview, Tim Cook referred to autonomous systems as “the mother of all AI projects,” saying it’s “probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on.”

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