Tim Cook confirms Apple is focused on AI technology in autonomous car race

Everyone knows that Apple is working on something car-related, but CEO Tim Cook has been typically mum on the subject until now.

Last we checked in on the self-driving car world, Apple was barely in the conversation. It wasn’t even clear whether the tech company would be focusing on the artificial intelligence software or go full Waymo and build a car too.

Cook has finally given us an update on Apple’s autonomous car efforts and we can know say for (relative — it’s always relative with Apple) certain that Apple is currently just interested in the AI system. Cook told Bloomberg that AI was a “core technology” for the company and self-driving cars represent “the mother of all AI projects.”

While constantly shrouded in mystery, Tim Cook and Apple have provided just enough information to convince analysts that Apple should be taken seriously in the self-driving car race. This quote is just the latest to affirm their faith. Also from Bloomberg:

Apple has long been the wild card in the autonomous car game,” said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Autotrader. “Now we know Apple is all in, and, judging by its track record in other areas, it will be a force. Apple’s strategy to commercialize autonomous vehicles remains to be seen — will they partner and sell the technology or actually develop their own vehicles?”

Cook also called autonomous cars “one of the most difficult AI projects to work on” but declined to provide any kind of progress report or rule out an Apple car, despite contradictory evidence as to whether the company is actively working on one.  Regardless, tech reporters have long tracked Apple’s movements in the space. In 2016, they decided to”recalibrate” to focus on technology, around the same time they put Apple veteran Bob Mansfield in charge due to “ballooning costs and headcount,” according to Bloomberg.

Since then, the company is also on file as having received approval on a permit to test three self-driving SUVs from the California Department of Motor Vehicles. They may or may not have been testing cars for over a year at this point.

For now, all we can say for certain is Apple is decidedly interested in AI on the autonomous car level.