Apple CEO Finally Admits to Project Titan, ‘The Mother of all AI Projects'

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【Summary】On Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed that the company is working on a self-driving car program. Cook called the effort “The mother of all A.I. projects.”

Original   Eric Walz  ·  Jun 13, 2017 5:07 PM PT
author: Eric Walz   

On Tuesday June 13th, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed that the company is working on a self-driving car program. Cook called the effort "the mother of all A.I. projects." In the past, it was not clear just what Apple was up to.

Apple shared little information about developing autonomous vehicles. In 2014, the company was rumored to have begun work on an autonomous electric car, codenamed "Project Titan," with hundreds of employees devoted solely to its development. Management issues and logistical problems impaired its progress, leading Apple to abandon the project.

Since then, Apple engineer Bob Mansfield has fronted a renewed effort to focus on building an autonomous driving system rather than a complete car. However, Apple has been secretive about the project since day one, up until recently.

"We're focusing on autonomous systems," Cook said in an interview on Bloomberg Television earlier this month. "It's a core technology that we view as very important."

He detailed his view of the future for the automotive industry as a combination of self-driving cars, electric vehicles, and ride-sharing. "You've got kind of three vectors of change happening generally in the same time frame," he said.

Apple plans to focus on autonomy, though some of Cook's talk seemed to hint that the company has not abandoned the notion of building an entire electric vehicle. "It's a marvelous experience not to stop at the filling station or the gas station," Cook said.

Cook's statements do not indicate the company has any current plans to build a physical car. Cook did not outright say that option was no longer on the table. "We'll see where it takes us," he said. "We're not really saying from a product point of view what we will do."

"Clearly, one purpose of autonomous systems is self-driving cars — there are others. And we sort of see it as the mother all A.I. projects," Cook told Bloomberg. "It's probably one of the most difficult AI projects, actually, to work on. So autonomy is something that is incredibly exciting for us."

One of Apple's Lexus self-driving test vehicles was spotted in April driving around Silicon Valley and the company recently was granted an autonomous vehicle test permit to use in California. However, the company appears to be far behind Waymo in the testing of autonomous vehicles. Waymo's self-driving fleet has logged millions of miles so far.

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Gerrit De Vynck reported that VR simulators will allow the Apple team to test their self-driving software without taking the system on public roads. According to media reports, Apple's VR team includes virtual reality expert Doug Bowman, who designed the simulators Apple is using to test its self-driving software. The car operating system would be built at least partially in Canada, Bloomberg reported.

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