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Apple's Tim Cook focusing on self-driving car technology

By Allen Cone
Apple's Tim Cook focusing on self-driving car technology
Earlier this month, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke about Apple's development of technology for self-driving cars. Pool photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/UPI | License Photo

June 13 (UPI) -- CEO Tim Cook says Apple is working on developing technology for a self-driving car, which he described in an interview as the "the mother of all AI projects."

In an interview posted online Tuesday with Bloomberg TV, Cook said the artificial intelligence project involves three aspects: autonomous cars, electric vehicles and ride-booking.

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"There is a major disruption looming there," Cook told Bloomberg during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., on June 5. "You've got kind of three vectors of change happening generally in the same time frame."

And it makes for challenging work.

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"Clearly, one purpose of autonomous systems is self-driving cars — there are others. And we sort of see it as the mother all AI projects," Cook said. "It's probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on. So autonomy is something that is incredibly exciting for us. But we'll see where it takes us — we're not really saying from a product point of view what we'll do. It's a core technology that we view as very important."

Initially, Apple sought to build its own car -- a plan called Project Titan -- but last year decided to instead focus on the underlying technology for autonomous driving.

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Since Project Titan began in 2014, Apple has hired 1,000 engineers.

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Several other tech companies have been working on self-driving car technology, including Alphabet's waymo and processor company Intel. Cars manufacturers, including Tesla, General Motors and BMW, have been developing the vehicles. Ride-sharing company Uber has also jumped in.

In April, Apple received a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicle to test three self-driving sports-utility vehicles. It has been using a Lexus RX450h SUV equipped with sensors and cameras, Bloomberg reported. A half-dozen vehicles were seen on public roads in and around the San Francisco Bay area for at least a year. Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr declined to comment how long the company has been conducting road tests.

California has granted autonomous car testing permits to 30 companies.

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Last November, Steve Kenner, Apple's director of product integrity, wrote to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, revealing the company's interest in automotive technology.

Apple has already registered several car-related internet domains, including apple.car and apple.auto.

Cook is high on electric cars.

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"It's a marvelous experience not to stop at the filling station or the gas station," Cook said.

And Apple sees ride-hailing as part of the self-driving development.

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Last year, Apple invested $1 billion last year in Didi Chuxing, the biggest Chinese ride-hailing service.

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Cook isn't sure whether Apple will actually manufacture the cars -- like it does phones, computers and watches.

"We'll see where it takes us," Cook said. "We're not really saying from a product point of view what we will do."

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