Less than two months ago, it seemed Apple’s potential self-driving program was in trouble. But the Verge obtained a Nov. 22 letter from Apple to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in which the tech company writes 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 necessarily mean Apple is, at this very moment, working on the production of self-driving cars. But it does speak to the company’s realization that the automation is in its future, particularly since it’s asking the highway traffic safety administration to promote fair competition between traditional auto-makers and newcomers into the industry.
Instead of competing directly against Tesla in the automated car market, Apple could choose to develop the software for such a vehicle and then partner with an existing auto company to produce it. Previously, Apple had been rumored to be talking with British car manufacturer McLaren, though McLaren denied that.
But the rumors of Apple getting into the self-driving car game certainly have been more solidified by this letter.
“We’ve provided comments to NHTSA because Apple is investing heavily in machine learning and autonomous systems,” an Apple spokesman told the Financial Times. “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 the industry.”