Apple expresses interest in autonomous vehicle testing in letter to NHTSA

Posted:
in General Discussion edited December 2016
In perhaps the most public admission of its automotive ambitions, Apple in a statement issued to the 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.




In a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, unearthed by VentureBeat, Apple director of product integrity Steve Kenner says the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy (PDF link) paves a safe and flexible path toward the development of automated vehicles, but suggests proposed regulations could be more open for companies new to the industry.

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.

Kenner in part echoes recent offhand affirmations from Apple CEO Tim Cook that the company is interested in bringing machine learning and automation tech to the personal transportation arena. The letter goes much deeper, however, outlining specific areas of attention and potential regulation modifications that suggest Apple has been investigating the space for some time.

In particular, 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.

As can be expected, Apple suggests open sharing of anonymized data -- without infringing user privacy, of course -- 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.

While Apple seconded a number of banal policy proposals, the company took issue with certain exemptions for internal development testing. Specifically, Kenner notes the proposed policy's wording suggests companies need prior exemption for public road testing of vehicles not compliant with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

The federal government requires auto manufacturers test upcoming vehicles on public roads, and to that end recently added a Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act proviso that allows "established manufacturers" to conduct such tests without an exemption from FMVSS. That same document does not present the same opportunity to "new entrants."

"To maximize the safety benefits of automated vehicles, encourage innovation, and promote fair competition, established manufacturers and new entrants should be treated equally," Kenner writes. "Instead of applying for exemptions, all companies should be given an opportunity to implement internal safety processes summarized in a Safety Assessment."

Though the NHTSA is unable to modify the FAST Act, it can update the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy to bypass the requirement for exemptions, thus streamlining road testing for companies like Apple.

Rumors of Apple's interest in creating a branded car surfaced early last year. Dubbed Project Titan, the internal initiative was reportedly staffed by more than 1,000 engineers and other personnel working out of top secret labs in Sunnyvale, Calif., some of whom were pulled from important consumer product teams.

After what seemed to be an aggressive ramp up in development funding, Project Titan ran into trouble last September when sources said top executives expressed displeasure with the group's slow progress. Subsequent reports indicated the team faced mounting unforeseen obstacles that ultimately culminated in the axing of dozens of employees.

According to the most recent rumblings, Apple has pivoted away from a full-fledged self-driving car platform and is now focusing on the development of autonomous vehicle software and supporting hardware. Interestingly, Apple's driverless product, if it ever materializes, might intersect with the company's augmented reality initiative. In October, reports claimed Apple is currently testing AR-based navigation and other autonomous vehicle solutions using virtual reality simulators.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 57
    qwweraqwwera Posts: 253member
    Love the 6 series antenna lines on an ugly gold car.  The artist for that rendering has a great sense of humor.

    All it needs is the windsheilds and windows  to have big honking bezels.
    thinkman@chartermi.netbobrooSolirepressthismelodyof1974
  • Reply 2 of 57
    NY1822NY1822 Posts: 567member
    this photo won't die...
    irelandthinkman@chartermi.netbobroomazda 3sSolirepressthismike1watto_cobramelodyof1974
  • Reply 3 of 57
    irelandireland Posts: 17,521member
    Just as I suspected. Apple Car was never on hold.
    Solipalomine
  • Reply 4 of 57
    irelandireland Posts: 17,521member
    NY1822 said:
    this photo won't die...
    Surely AI can hire someone on fives or whatever that website is called to created 10 nice mock-ups they can use for car and iPhone 8 stories etc. If I can the show here I wouldn't have to yucky mock-ups near the site.


    edited December 2016 SoliStrangeDaysrepressthis
  • Reply 5 of 57
    ireland said:
    Just as I suspected. Apple Car was never on hold.
    Still, doing software only makes no sense to me. What advantage would Apple have? There's a lot more to autonomous and self driving vehicles than what the UI of the dashboard looks like. Plus there's no evidence existing auto makers are looking to give that up to companies like Apple. Of course I would never want Apple to develop a car just for the sake of it but Apple's success has come from doing the entire stack, the whole widget. When have they ever successfully partnered with anyone on hardware? 
    calirandominternetperson
  • Reply 6 of 57
    irelandireland Posts: 17,521member
    ireland said:
    Just as I suspected. Apple Car was never on hold.
    Still, doing software only makes no sense to me.
    Unsure why you are saying this to me. I never suggested this. I've long been vocal that no part of their car project was on hold. Developing any product has bumps in the road, a car would be no different as it's quite a complex project. That are not doing software only. If they are doing software they are clearly doing a car. The reporting on this by my estimate is inaccurate. They are working on autonomy (confirmed), the operating system (confirmed), and the physical car itself including electric motor, batteries, interior, dash, seats, wheels, chassis and shell. Too much smoke, too many un-fired car engineers, too important and crucial a product for the company, green prospects for electric vehicles are world-changing: this is perhaps the biggest indicator for me for why Tim and Co. would be interested in releasing a car. Also, most cars out there including Tesla cars aren't that well designed.

    Apple are a vertical company. A car means a car. They are even engineering certain stores to be ready when the time comes: those huge showroom doors are no accident.
    edited December 2016 anantksundaramcaliration alrepressthislightknightpalomine
  • Reply 7 of 57
    ireland said:
    Just as I suspected. Apple Car was never on hold.
    Same here. It was a lot of breathless, bs reporting based on nothing. 

    This is exciting. I have truly hoped that Apple would take the car market head on. It looks like they are. Can't wait for mine in 2021 (I'll probably pass on the first model year ;-)). 
    edited December 2016 calirepressthispalomine
  • Reply 8 of 57
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
     Once again Apple paving the road for all the copycats to ride through. 

     Don't be surprised that in 15 years all cars look the same. 
    palomine
  • Reply 9 of 57
    irelandireland Posts: 17,521member
    cali said:
     Once again Apple paving the road for all the copycats to ride through. 

     Don't be surprised that in 15 years all cars look the same. 
    That's an argument. Tesla paved the road for Apple though. Proved the market. Tesla will be one of the electric car market leaders too going forward I'd bet.
    edited December 2016 mazda 3s
  • Reply 10 of 57
    cali said:
     Once again Apple paving the road for all the copycats to ride through. 

     Don't be surprised that in 15 years all cars look the same. 
    Really? What exactly are they copying as Apple has nothing on the market. If people think Apple is just going to swoop in here like they did with iPod and iPhone and show everyone how it's done I think they're in for a rude awakening.
  • Reply 11 of 57
    rcfarcfa Posts: 745member
    Electric cars are overrated, hugely resource intensive, range limited.
    They are great for urban short distance, but not for longer distance commutes or travel.

    Audi developed a synthetic diesel created from water, electricity (solar, WAMSR), and atmospheric CO2; meaning it burns absolutely clean and remains CO2 neutral, and can be produced whenever renewable energy is available, decoupled from demand.
    Further it can be used with all the existing legacy infrastructure from oil furnaces to farm or construction equipment, ships, etc.

    Electric cars may be sexy, but if you really are about saving the ecosystem, creating billions of electric cars depending on rare earth metals, massive lithium batteries, and often fueled by electricity from dirty coal power plants, aren't going to be the solution.
  • Reply 12 of 57
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 1,777member
    ireland said:
    Just as I suspected. Apple Car was never on hold.
    Still, doing software only makes no sense to me. What advantage would Apple have? There's a lot more to autonomous and self driving vehicles than what the UI of the dashboard looks like. Plus there's no evidence existing auto makers are looking to give that up to companies like Apple. Of course I would never want Apple to develop a car just for the sake of it but Apple's success has come from doing the entire stack, the whole widget. When have they ever successfully partnered with anyone on hardware? 
    "When have they ever successfully partnered with anyone on hardware? "

    Never
    repressthis
  • Reply 13 of 57
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,461member
    ireland said:
    Just as I suspected. Apple Car was never on hold.
    Still, doing software only makes no sense to me. What advantage would Apple have? There's a lot more to autonomous and self driving vehicles than what the UI of the dashboard looks like. Plus there's no evidence existing auto makers are looking to give that up to companies like Apple. Of course I would never want Apple to develop a car just for the sake of it but Apple's success has come from doing the entire stack, the whole widget. When have they ever successfully partnered with anyone on hardware? 
    You say that, and yet Tesla started from nothing not too long ago, plus many other automobile companies that have become very popular in the US in recent years like Hyundai, so to assert that "PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in," is folly.
  • Reply 14 of 57
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,461member

    ireland said:
    Just as I suspected. Apple Car was never on hold.
    Still, doing software only makes no sense to me. What advantage would Apple have? There's a lot more to autonomous and self driving vehicles than what the UI of the dashboard looks like. Plus there's no evidence existing auto makers are looking to give that up to companies like Apple. Of course I would never want Apple to develop a car just for the sake of it but Apple's success has come from doing the entire stack, the whole widget. When have they ever successfully partnered with anyone on hardware? 
    "When have they ever successfully partnered with anyone on hardware? "

    Never
    Sure they have.
  • Reply 15 of 57
    ireland said:
    Just as I suspected. Apple Car was never on hold.
    I'm not following your reasoning. How are you deducing this from the AI article? The way interpret the article is they are working on machine learning and autonomous software for vehicles, not a physical vehicle such as an Apple Car.
  • Reply 16 of 57
    irelandireland Posts: 17,521member
    ireland said:
    Just as I suspected. Apple Car was never on hold.
    I'm not following your reasoning. How are you deducing this from the AI article? The way interpret the article is they are working on machine learning and autonomous software for vehicles, not a physical vehicle such as an Apple Car.
    You can't have one without the other. Name the car company who's going to let Apple install the brains and self-drive capabilities into its car? None, car companies wouldn't allow this. Name the company Apple would do this for? They wouldn't. Rest assured if they are working on operating system and autonomy for a car they are certainly working on the car itself. They literally have many hundreds of car engineers involved on this product, and most Apple VP's are into cars in a big way and several I've Jony Ive's design team are car designers from lambo and Porsche etc. The conclusion is intuitive as much as it is obvious. There's a bonfire of smoke here. Apple are vertical. Green angle. Engineers. Etc. 
    randominternetpersonpalomine
  • Reply 17 of 57
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,461member
    ireland said:
    Just as I suspected. Apple Car was never on hold.
    I'm not following your reasoning. How are you deducing this from the AI article? The way interpret the article is they are working on machine learning and autonomous software for vehicles, not a physical vehicle such as an Apple Car.
    We have absolutely no idea what Apple planned to do with Project Titan so anything that involves an automobile, outside of making the iPhone's CarPlay UI better, still falls squarely under the purview of an the enthusiast named Apple Car project.
  • Reply 18 of 57
    WTC911WTC911 Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    New York City's "Ground Zero" is the World Transportation Center (WTC), the point of origin for America's new self-driving-car infrastructure. Manhattan's former World Trade Center (WTC) comes up when you search for "World Transportation Center" using any of the following: Google Search Google Images Google Maps Google Earth
  • Reply 19 of 57
    ireland said:
    ireland said:
    Just as I suspected. Apple Car was never on hold.
    I'm not following your reasoning. How are you deducing this from the AI article? The way interpret the article is they are working on machine learning and autonomous software for vehicles, not a physical vehicle such as an Apple Car.
    You can't have one without the other. Name the car company who's going to let Apple install the brains and self-drive capabilities into its car? None, car companies wouldn't allow this. Name the company Apple would do this for? They wouldn't. Rest assured if they are working on operating system and autonomy for a car they are certainly working on the car itself. They literally have many hundreds of car engineers involved on this product, and most Apple VP's are into cars in a big way and several I've Jony Ive's design team are car designers from lambo and Porsche etc. The conclusion is intuitive as much as it is obvious. There's a bonfire of smoke here. Apple are vertical. Green angle. Engineers. Etc. 
    I should preface by saying I'm not an expert in the motor vehicle industry, nor do I have intimate knowledge about Apple's car plans. Let's investigate how much revenue Apple would generate by selling autonomous driving packages (software and hardware).

    Over half the motor vehicles sold around the world are produced by the top ten motor vehicle manufacturers. I would assume the majority of these top ten manufacturers are currently working on autonomous driving packages, and do not need Apple's solution.

    Let's say 40% of all motor vehicle manufacturers could potentially be Apple autonomous customers. According to Wiki about 90 million vehicles were sold in 2014. 40% of 90 is 36 million. Maybe one-third of these vehicles would be Apple autonomous. If Apple sells the autonomous package for $7000 per vehicle multiplied by 11.88 million vehicles, then they would achieve $83 billion in revenue. This is still a very healthy business with much better margins than building a car. It's also quicker to ramp than vehicle production.

    There is a chance Tesla's vehicles will be fully autonomous and include AR HUDs within the next year. If Apple can get their package out by 2018 then some 2019 vehicle brands would include "Apple Car".  This is much quicker to market than building and showcasing physical vehicles.
    edited December 2016
  • Reply 20 of 57
    Apple would be smart to initially use their expertise, innovation and technology to work in the HOV, limited access and mass transit arena of transportation. Opportunities are limitless, considering the government, institutional, overland cargo shipment, mass movement and ride share trends going forward. The liabilities will be somewhat limited, their corporate needs are advanced on campus, and in a limited access environment, technology, regulation and the civilian comfort level can be advanced while introducing an Apple sensitivity/sensibility into the mix.  It is a strategy to circumvent the media presence and familiarity with the present players.
    Soliration alpalomine
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