Photograph courtesy of Flickr user Andy
Photograph courtesy of Flickr user Andy

Apple reveals its plans for self-driving cars

After much speculation, Apple has acknowledged for the first time that it is investing in autonomous car technology.

The tech giant wrote a letter to US transport regulators, in which it said the company was "excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation".

The five-page letter, penned by Apple's director of product integrity Steve Kenner, was sent in response to the proposed Federal Automated Vehicles Policy – something Apple believes "will be fundamental to ensuring the safety and public acceptance of automated vehicles while providing a flexible path for innovation".

The company registered a number of car-related web domains earlier this year, but hasn't previously stated that it is working on a self-driving car itself.

Apple has now asked that "established manufacturers and new entrants should be treated equally" when it comes to the imposition of new testing regulations for the vehicles.

The letter also proposes that all companies in the industry club together to share data from crashes in order to build a more comprehensive picture – but adds that an individual's privacy should not be compromised by this.

"Data sharing should not come at the cost of privacy," it states. "Apple believes that companies should invest the resources necessary to protect individuals' fundamental right to privacy."

Apple was first rumoured to be working on an autonomous vehicle in early 2015, when reports suggested that the company already had 600 employees working on an electric car design.

Later that year, more rumours suggested that the company hoped to launch an electric car to the public by 2019.

Apple has not confirmed or denied its move into the automotive industry. But in 2014, CEO Tim Cook revealed that "there are products [Apple] are working on that no one knows about".

This is the latest development in the race towards driverless vehicles, which has been largely pioneered by Tesla founder Elon Musk. The billionaire entrepreneur has previously said that driving is too dangerous for humans and will be outlawed as soon as self-driving cars are proved to be safer.

His argument was backed by the US Department of Transportation, which earlier this year unveiled its plans to eradicate road accidents by increasing the number of autonomous vehicles.

However, the technology is still being refined. An accident report recently revealed that one of Google's self-driving vehicles had collided with a public bus in Mountain View, California – soon after it became the first non-human to be recognised as a driver in the US.