After having delved into a vast range of ground-breaking computing and technology products over the years, most of them phenomenally successful, Apple has now made public its intention of getting into the autonomous car race with technology giants like Tesla, Google, Uber, Ford, China’s Baidu, General Motors, and perhaps other companies which may join the race to capitalise on the response that this idea is attracting- it’s but inevitable that this would be the “future of transportation.”
Although Apple has long been secretive about its autonomous car plans, however, it’s recent letters to the U.S. Department of Transport (DOT) and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) made public by VentureBeat is not that well-kept-a-secret anymore.
Apple’s director of product integrity, Steve Kenner, in his letter, has explained the company’s integration of machine learning in a variety of different aspects to make its products and services smarter, more perceptive and personalized, including its transport ventures.
Apple in its letter has spoken on the safety features of autonomous vehicles emphasizing that, both, established players and potential or new entrants should enjoy parity in treatment in order to ensure maximization of the safety benefits of the technology.
The insinuation, one can speculate, is that being new in the car business Apple shouldn’t experience any discrimination in terms of testing or timelines because it’s not an established automaker like, for instance, Ford or General Motors, or even Tesla.
While the letter can be considered a bit vague, a separate statement issued to the Financial Times by an Apple spokesperson is relatively more precise, in that, the company wants to make certain that NHTSA has a clear and definitive policy with regards to “machine learning and autonomous systems.”
“We’ve provided comments to NHTSA because Apple is investing heavily in the areas of machine learning and autonomous systems,” the apple spokesperson added. “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 this industry.”
However, the timeline of Apple’s venture into the autonomous car business is somewhat ambiguous, whereas most of the competition is looking at 2020-2021 for the launch of their self-driving endeavors. Among the major players in the autonomous cars field, Tesla seems to be more proactive in so far as the timeline is concerned, and are pushing aggressively towards achieving it.
So, what is the federal plan to pick up the pace in this imminent transportation revolution? The U.S. government has released an 116 page document, basically a framework or guidelines for automakers involved in making this technology a reality.
The basic purpose of the new guidelines released by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is to expedite the process by not suffocating it with complicated regulations without compromising on the safety of what they call “highly automated vehicles” (HAVs).
Safety is of prime importance for DOT as far as the so-called “highly automated vehicles” (HAVs) are concerned. The reason for this lies in the statistics for roadway fatalities – In 2015 alone 35,092 people died as a result of roadways accidents, 94 percent of which were the result of human error or oversight.
The most important and exciting promise of HAVs is to mitigate the overwhelming numbers of roadway fatalities.