Tim Cook
Tim Cook

Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

Apple is working on something related to self-driving cars, but don’t expect an iCar to pick you up from work any time soon. 

In a June 5 interview with Bloomberg Television, Apple CEO Tim Cook elaborated a bit on the company’s involvement in “autonomous systems.” He doesn’t go into detail and he does point out that Apple isn’t ready to announce a self-driving car product just yet. However, Cook does admit that Apple is doing something in the space. 

“What we’re focusing on, what we’ve talked about focusing on publicly, we’re focusing on autonomous systems. And clearly one purpose of autonomous systems is self-driving cars, there are others. And we sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects. It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects, actually, to work on,” Cook said. “And so autonomy is something that’s incredibly exciting for us, and…we’ll see where it takes us. We’re not really saying from a product point of view what we will do, but we are being straightforward that it’s a core technology that we view is very important.”

There’s everything and nothing to be learned from this quote. Apple could be working on self-driving tech, but it could also be something completely different. Apple may offer an autonomous car-related product in the future, but it could also just be technology that’s merged with other products, like CarPlay. 

Numerous reports offer a bit more insight, though. Apple was long rumored to be looking to build a car — according to one account, Steve Jobs expressed interest in such a project back in 2008. Apple’s ambition in the space, according to reports, shrunk, and the company narrowed its focus to developing self-driving software.

A self-driving car, probably belonging to Apple, was recently spotted in California, but it was a Lexus car with Velodyne sensors, which reinforced the notion that Apple’s focus is self-driving software. Business-wise, Apple is already involved in the space, having invested $1 billion in China’s ride-sharing service, Didi Chuxing, which reportedly opened a self-driving lab in Mountain View, California. 

While Cook’s statements don’t bring anything new to the table, the fact that he considers autonomous systems to be a “core technology” is exciting — provided it’s not hyperbole. 

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