Tim Cook finally acknowledged one of the most poorly kept secrets in the tech industry: Apple is working to develop self-driving car technology.
Cook's comments clarified that Apple is working on something in the autonomous space — but that's it. He gave no more details about the project than what we could infer from the evidence that has been mounting since late last year through document leaks about the "Apple Autonomous System," regulatory filings, and a reported sighting of a Lexus SUV toting self-driving sensors driving near the company's offices in California.
Self-driving car development is one of the hottest trends in both the automotive and tech industries. The biggest companies in the world are busy launching projects, announcing partnerships, and spending massive amounts of money to develop the first viable autonomous platform. Apple was one of the last major names without any public skin in the game, so its official entry, no matter how ambiguous, is a big deal.
Now that Cook gave the autonomous program his stamp of approval for speculation, here are three takeaways about Apple's position in the self-driving development scene and its potential for the future.
Apple vs. Google hits the streets
At first glance, its seems like Apple's roadmap to self-driving development appears to be strikingly similar to that of one of its chief rivals: Google.
Google's project, which has evolved into the standalone company Waymo, began with designs to create a self-driving vehicle from the ground up before pivoting to focus on developing a software and hardware package which could be marketed to automakers instead. If Apple has actually scrapped its ambitions to build a car, it could be moving in the same direction.
This could create an entirely new arena for the rivalry between the two giants, with a major advantage to Google. Waymo is one of the strongest players in the game, both through its track record driving millions of test miles and its alliances with partners