Apple may not be building a self-driving car, but it sure cares a lot about rules for self-driving cars


Read Apple’s letter to federal regulators

For a company that isn’t supposed to be working on a self-driving car, Apple has a lot of very specific thoughts on federal rules for self-driving cars.

Apple has spelled them out in a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, where the company says it 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.”

That doesn’t mean Apple is actually building a self-driving car — a series of reports indicates that Apple had been interested in that idea, but now seems more likely to be licensing out its software for other people’s self-driving cars.

But the letter does suggest that Apple wants to keep its options open if it does decide to build a car.

Whether Apple ultimately decides to develop its own car or license its software, this letter is the closest the company has come to revealing its official thoughts on self-driving technology.

The letter, written by Steve Kenner, Apple’s director of product integrity, calls on regulators to treat new players the same as established car makers when they want to test self-driving cars, in order to “create a fair environment for all companies to make progress toward automated vehicles.”

Like many of its potential competitors, Apple also expressed concern over a portion of the NHTSA guidelines that calls on companies to share safety information and data with each other. A coalition of companies with interests in the car business, — including Google, Uber, Lyft, Volvo, and Ford — has made it clear that they don’t want to expose proprietary information.

Apple, which Kenner wrote is looking forward to “collaborating with other stakeholders to define the specific data that should be shared,” also expressed concern over securing the privacy of its consumers’ data and suggested that other companies should be investing resources into doing so.

We’ve reached out to Apple for comment on the letter and will update if and when we hear back.

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