Apple probably isn’t making its own car, but it is rumored to be working on autonomous vehicle technology. Support for the company’s interest in vehicles is now coming from Apple itself. The company sent a letter to the US NHTSA requesting that “new entrants” to the auto industry be treated the same as established companies when it comes to testing and other regulations.

It doesn’t delve into its work in the area of autonomous vehicles, but Apple confirms its machine learning technology has applications in the transportation space.

Apple uses machine learning to make its products and services smarter, more intuitive, and more personal. 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.
– Apple

An example of established and new automotive companies being treated differently is that the former can test cars on public roads without receiving an exemption to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. That’s possible due to the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Companies like Google, however, don’t receive the same privileges under FAST.

The company also promoted data-sharing between manufacturers, while noting individual privacy must be protected.

Apple agrees that companies should share de-identified scenario and dynamics data from crashes and near-misses. Data should be sufficient to reconstruct the event, including time-series of vehicle kinematics and characteristics of the roadway and objects.
– Apple

Here’s Apple’s explanation for the letter:

We’ve provided comments to NHTSA because Apple is investing heavily in machine learning and autonomous systems. 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.

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