Apple pens letter to NHTSA regarding autonomous vehicle policies

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Apple in November penned a letter to the NHTSA (U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) regarding autonomous vehicle polices and other concerns. VentureBeat unearthed the letter, which was signed by Apple VP of Product Integrity and former Ford safety executive Steve Kenner.

Kenner covers a lot of topics in the lengthy correspondence, including a call for anonymous data sharing to improve accuracy of autonomous systems and a request that new companies entering the industry be treated the same as legacy manufacturers, but this is perhaps the most interesting cut:

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. 

Executed properly under NHTSA’s guidance, automated vehicles have the potential to greatly enhance the human experience—to prevent millions of car crashes and thousands of fatalities each year and to give mobility to those without. It is vital that those developing and deploying automated vehicles follow rigorous safety principles in design and production. Such principles should not, however, inhibit companies from making consequential progress; there is no need to compromise safety or innovation. 

And here is a statement from Apple to FT’s Tim Bradshaw:

“We’ve provided comments to NHTSA because Apple is investing heavily in machine learning and autonomous systems,” the Apple spokesman said. “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.” 

Despite its current focus on the systems underlying a self-driving vehicle, the letter leaves open the possibility that Apple will go on to design and produce a car of its own, rather than merely provide its technology to an existing manufacturer. 

“To maximise the safety benefits of automated vehicles, encourage innovation, and promote fair competition, established manufacturers and new entrants should be treated equally,” Apple writes.

While Tim Cook typically smiles and winks in response to questions regarding Apple’s rumored auto initiative, this appears to be the company’s most public admission of its interest in the space. Recent reports have indicated that the project is winding down, but comments in this letter suggest differently.

Source: VentureBeat