Apple gives clues to its interest in entering the autonomous vehicle market after contacting the American Highway Safety Administration by letter.

Rumors of an Apple-designed self-driving car have skyrocketed since a letter the company addressed to the National Highway Safety Administration was made public. Leaks have been constant for at least a year. We have spent at least 12 months during which journalists, designers and the general public search for information, make sketches and speculate about it.

Until now, this computer giant has managed to evade any questioning with a certain elegance and has ignored any pushback from both the public and the specialized press. But now the season has been opened and the information dam has begun to flow. In a recently released letter dated November 22 of this year, Apple hints at its interest in entering the autonomous vehicle market. The letter was addressed to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an agency that is part of the United States Department of Transportation and whose mission is to “save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce vehicle accidents.

” The letter is a response to a requirement from NHTSA about the document on autonomous vehicles that the agency has called “an essential starting point as a guide for industry, government and consumers.” Basically the NHTSA wanted to know the opinion of the manufacturers and others involved in all the systems linked to the “smart-cars”. Regarding the content of the five-page letter, Apple has commented only that they are “investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation and that they are excited about the potential of autonomous systems in different areas, including transportation. So we want to work with NHTSA to define industry practices.” To try to read between the lines, the most advisable thing then is to go directly to the source and read the letter.

In one of the paragraphs, signed by Apple’s director of Product Integrity, Steve Kenner, it can be read: «Properly controlled under the guidance of the NHTSA, automated vehicles have the potential to greatly improve the human experience and prevent millions of car accidents and thousands of deaths every year and give mobility to those who do not have it. Although it cannot be deduced from this that Apple intends to manufacture a vehicle, it does want to be one of those involved in the industry and therefore rushes to respond to the request of the Department of Transportation.

But then it is much clearer what the Cupertino firm intends. “To maximize the safety benefits of automated vehicles, foster innovation, and promote fair competition, established manufacturers and new entrants must be treated equally. Instead of applying for exemptions, all companies should have the opportunity to implement internal security processes. This is the most efficient and effective way to ensure that vehicles are designed and driven with a high level of safety.”

Let’s take turns, Apple would be a newcomer to a market in which Google, Tesla, Uber, Microsoft, Toyota or Volvo, to name a few, have been working for years. And he wants to receive equal treatment, to be given the same weight in decisions as other companies. They also want some independence when it comes to research, and if the technologies they develop don’t follow NHTSA guidelines, but are equally or more secure and reliable, they want it admitted.

And, in case there is any doubt, in another paragraph he maintains that “it is of vital importance that the development and deployment of automated vehicles follow rigorous safety principles in design and production. However, these principles should not prevent companies from making consistent progress. There is no need to compromise on safety or innovation.” That is to say: «Let us act, we know what we are doing». A hit like this doesn’t happen if a company isn’t sure it cares enough about a market to go head-to-head with the competition and government agencies. As if that were not enough, Apple also diplomatically suggests certain changes to the agency’s guidelines: “We believe NHTSA can achieve its objectives more effectively by making minor revisions to the Security Policy provisions. As written, it could be interpreted as requiring prior approval from NHTSA prior to any testing. If NHTSA does not intend for such an instance to be treated as a pre-approval, Apple suggests that this provision be clarified.” That said, Apple bets big.

In 2014, Project Titan was created, with the idea that Apple would create the iPhone out of cars. The difficulty in obtaining parts and replacements, the complexity of starting in a completely new industry, and the slow pace at which the industry has progressed became major obstacles that led Apple to modify its original idea. The arrival of Bob Mansfield, a veteran of the company (he supervised the development of the Apple watch, the iMac and the MacBook, among others) in the area of ​​future technologies is what would give the final clue: Apple will not manufacture the vehicles, but the system intelligent behind or rather within, of them. This is where you have experience, but you need the freedom to do it your way. And also that they treat him as an equal, because he knows that the other giants, starting with Google or Microsoft, will not be very happy.

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