After years of speculation and rumor, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, has confirmed that the company is developing software to power self-driving cars.
No one seems to have been surprised by the revelation–after all, Apple’s allegedly hush-hush “Project Titan” division tasked with building and testing that software was among the worst-kept secrets of the tech world.
However, Cook’s declaration does somewhat clarify Apple’s intentions, which have been subject to debate. And it does come at an important moment, a few weeks after Apple was seen testing a self-driving vehicle on public roads.
That happened in California, just over a month ago. If the observer hadn’t witnessed the vehicle emerging from an Apple facility, it might’ve been hard to tell which company’s workers were behind the wheel, since the car itself wasn’t especially unusual: it was a modified Lexus SUV, like the kind that other firms have used in self-driving tech tests.
The sighting immediately led many to suspect that the rumors floating around since last fall were true–namely, that Apple wasn’t going to build autonomous cars, but would instead follow the lead of its major competitor, Waymo/Google, and focus on developing autonomous car software.
And now we know for certain that that’s exactly what Apple is doing. In speaking to Bloomberg TV, Cook said that the company is focused on “autonomous systems”, which he describes as “the mother of all A.I. projects.”
Beyond that, Cook didn’t elaborate on Apple’s plans in the self-driving car arena–a sector that’s likely to be worth $7 trillion by 2050, if not sooner. However, he did note that change is happening quickly, thanks to three converging trends that we’ve discussed at length before: electric cars, self-driving vehicles, and ride-sharing. That makes for a perfect storm of disruption in the auto industry, which looks a lot like opportunity to Cook.
You can watch the relevant portion of Cook’s interview below.