Apple have confirmed it is developing a driverless car after years of rumours.
The tech giant is ‘investing heavily’ in the self-driving vehicles, it revealed in a letter to the US highways regulator.
Director of product integrity Steve Kenner wrote: “The company 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.”
He added that the cars could be life-saving, preventing millions of car crashes and deaths each year, and that there are “significant societal benefits of automated vehicles”.
The letter went on: “To maximise the safety benefits of automated vehicles, encourage innovation and promote fair competition, established manufacturers and new entrants should be treated equally.
“Companies should share de-identified scenario and dynamics data from crashes and near misses.
“By sharing data, the industry will build a more comprehensive data set than any one company could create alone.”
But it also warned: “Data sharing should not come at the cost of privacy.”
Fans of the tech giant have been speculating about plans for self-driving vehicles ever since it launched an electric car project, Titan, two years ago.
Project Titan was reportedly staffed by more than 1,000 engineers at top-secret labs in Sunnyvale, California. Apple also registered three domain names last year: apple.car, apple.cars and apple.auto.
But it was shelved after a number of problems, and now Apple will focus on developing an autonomous driving system.
This will allow the firm to partner with existing car manufacturers such as McLaren, who Apple were rumoured to be in talks with earlier this year.
Driverless cars take to the streets during Britain’s first self-driving pod trial
Driverless cars are not expected to hit the UK for years, but trials have already taken place and it is predicted that half of all new cars in Britain will be driverless within 25 years.
Just earlier this year a driverless car was tested amongst the public for the first time in the UK in Milton Keynes.
And the government are encouraging tech companies, car manufacturers and start-ups to develop and test autonomous vehicles in Britain.
In October government ministers launched a consultation on motor insurance rules and the highway code, aimed at getting driverless cars on Britain’s roads by 2020.
Business secretary Greg Clark said at the time: “The global market for autonomous vehicles presents huge opportunities for our automotive and technology firms.
“The research that underpins the technology and software will have applications way beyond autonomous vehicles.”
Taxi app Uber have already launched a driverless car service, using robot cars fitted with lasers, cameras and sensors.
The firm tested the vehicles in Pittsborough, USA, as they revealed that “self-driving is core to Uber’s mission”.
However, it will still take a long time for a world of taxis with no drivers on call by app to become a reality.