Apple official letter sounds like a self-driving Apple Car may be on the way

By Mashable.com

The Apple rumormongers simply won’t let talk of an Apple Car die.

Just months after reports indicated that there was, in fact, no Apple Car on the way, now a new document is sure to stoke the fires of Apple fans’ hopes that the company’s logo will grace an automobile in coming years.

A letter Apple sent to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in November, surfaced by Venturebeat on Friday, includes passages that indicate the company is interested in being a part of the autonomous automobile movement.

Addressing the NHTSA’s proposed Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, Steve Kenner, Apple’s director of product integrity, wrote, “Apple uses machine learning to make its products and services smarter, more intuitive, and more personal. 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.”

That last line is the money phrase: including transportation.

Although a number of reports have told of a secret Apple Car project and automobile industry hires by the company that may or may not have to do with the creation of an Apple car, this is the most direct phrasing from the company indicating an interest beyond dashboard systems like Apple’s CarPlay.

Later in the letter, Apple makes a number of comments related to automated car safety, innovation and rule making, areas that would seem to go far beyond CarPlay. Sure, Apple has a stake in the automated car industry even it it doesn’t make its own vehicle, but such a detailed document, addressing such specific areas makes it difficult to believe that Apple doesn’t at least have some ambitions of one day rolling out its own vehicle.

“Apple commends the Department of Transportation and NHTSA for facilitating a national conversation about the safe and ethical development and deployment of automated vehicles,” the letter continues.

“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.”

In a statement to the Financial Times, addressing the letter, an Apple spokesperson doubled down on the car talk.

“We’ve provided comments to NHTSA because Apple is investing heavily in machine learning and autonomous systems,” Apple’s spokesperson told the paper on Saturday. “There are many potential applications for these technologies, including the future of transportation, so we want to work with NHTSA to help define the best practices for the industry.”

If these combined statements aren’t about a future Apple Car, Apple sure is working hard to sound like it’s working on one.

As Apple completes work on its new campus with its 20,000-car, solar panel-laden car garage, it’s possible that an Apple prototype electric vehicle might already be parked there.

So now, let the Apple Car rumors begin anew as we count the months and years Tesla enjoys before having to compete with Apple or, maybe, being acquired by the most valuable tech company on the planet.

  

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