Tim Cook has shared some details on Apple’s electric car plans, describing self-driving cars as “the mother of all AI projects.”
“We’re focusing on autonomous systems,” Cook said in an interview with Bloomberg Television, which was conducted on June 5, but only published online today. “It’s a core technology that we view as very important … It’s probably one of the most difficult A.I. projects actually to work on.”
Cook said that there is a major disruption on its way in the auto industry. Talking about electric cars, he said that they offer, “a marvelous experience, not to [have to] stop at the filling station or the gas station.”
In addition, he discussed the opportunity offered by ride sharing technology, which ties in with Apple’s $1 billion investment in Didi Chuxing, China’s biggest ride-hailing service.
Despite being open about Apple’s excitement in this area, however, Cook was noncommittal about whether Apple is planning to manufacture a car itself. “We’ll see where [our research] takes us,” Cook said. “We’re not really saying from a product point of view what we will do.”
Cook’s discussion about a possible Apple Car comes at a time when talk about the project has cooled off. Apple’s original plan was reportedly to build a self-driving electric car that could recognize drivers by their Touch ID fingerprint.
However, somewhere along the way planned seemed to change, with hundreds of members of the so-called “Project Titan” team — which at one point was comprised of 1,000 people — reassigned, let go, or leaving Apple of their accord. Apple is said to have put in place a make-or-break deadline of late 2017 to decide whether to get out of the automotive game altogether.
Talking about future plans is traditionally not something that Apple has done, although that appears to have changed slightly under Tim Cook’s leadership. For example, Cook has frequently talked up the possibilities offered by virtual reality — which was recently made official as an area of interest at the 2017 WWDC event.
Apple has also focused heavily on artificial intelligence in the past several years, which has included numerous key hires in this area.
Other subjects Tim Cook talked about with Bloomberg include China, which Cook has previously made clear he views as being Apple’s future biggest market.
“We are not investigating for next quarter or next year,” Cook said, answering a question about navigating “uncertain economic and political waters” in the country. “We are thinking about many, many years out. As I stand back and look at China, I see mega-trends that make China an incredible market.” He suggested that this quarter is likely to be stronger than the last for Apple in China.
In addition, he was asked about repatriating Apple’s overseas cash pile, and about his leadership style at Apple versus that of Steve Jobs — saying that he probably wasn’t the best person to answer the question, but that Jobs’ DNA remained a deep part of Apple’s identity.