Apple Confirms Interest in Self-Driving Vehicle Market

At the end of November, Apple confirmed its interest in autonomous vehicles by sending a letter to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Apple plans on collaborating with other companies in a data-sharing project, but the company also plans on keeping many of its own efforts private.

According to VentureBeat, the letter is Apple’s clearest indication yet that the company wants to enter the self-driving industry.

“Apple uses machine learning to make its products and services smarter, more intuitive, and more personal,” wrote Steve Kenner, Apple’s director of product integrity. “The company is investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.”

Despite the recent interest in autonomous vehicle technology, Quartz reports that Apple recently laid off or reassigned a large portion of its autonomous vehicle team. It was estimated that at one point, over 1,000 employees were working on Apple’s self-driving car project, but that number has significantly decreased.

So far in 2016, new vehicle sales have increased for a record sixth consecutive year, bringing in $17.5 million. Apple plans on tapping into the auto industry and getting back into the self-driving market that could potentially lead to extremely high revenues. Apple is spending a significant amount of money on research and development, $8 billion to be exact, for projects just like their self-driving vehicle.

In Kenner’s letter, he states that the company would like “new entrants” to the vehicle industry to have the same opportunity that established manufacturers have when it comes to testing their autonomous vehicles on public roadways. The current regulations outlined in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST), however, doesn’t allow for that.

“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,” added Kenner.

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