Apple to invest 'heavily' in driverless car software

05/12/2016

Apple has announced plans to invest "heavily" in driverless car software, following years of speculation that the tech giant is eyeing the automotive industry.

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In a letter to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the tech giant said it was "excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation".

In the letter, Apple also called on the US highways regulator to promote “fair competition”.

Apple director of product integrity, Steve Kenner, said the firm wanted to "help define the best practices for the industry".

In a statement, Apple added Kenner had written to NHTSA because it is "investing heavily in machine learning and autonomous systems".

The company has an electric car project, codenamed Titan, which has been in the works for two years.

In September, the New York Times reported Apple had narrowed its ambitions and sacked dozens of employees as part of the project's "reboot".

It said those working on Titan would concentrate on developing underlying technologies for autonomous vehicles, rather than designing and producing a complete self-driving car.

However, Apple has urged NHTSA not to penalise firms testing driverless cars on public roads.

Kenner wrote: "To maximize the safety benefits of automated vehicles, encourage innovation, and promote fair competition, established manufacturers and new entrants should be treated equally."

He called on the US highways regulator to encourage data sharing between firms "to build a more comprehensive dataset than any one company could create alone".

Mr Kenner added: "Apple looks forward to collaborating with NHTSA and other stakeholders so that the significant societal benefits of automated vehicles can be realized safely, responsibly, and expeditiously."

Along with Google, Tesla, Ford and Volvo are among a number of companies who are developing self-driving vehicles.

In October, British firm Oxbotica trialled autonomous electric cars on the pavements of Milton Keynes.

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