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Apple joined a growing list of companies looking for a place in the emerging field of self-driving cars. The mix of potential players ranges across the automotive, technology and media sectors, signaling the wide impact self-driving cars are likely to have on the economy.
In a letter to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Steve Kenner, director of product integrity at Apple, said the company is excited about the potential of automated systems in areas like transportation and is looking to collaborate with others to develop best practices.
While Google and Uber have received much of the attention in the race to build reliable self-driving cars, a raft of other companies are working on the technology, including Intel, BMW, Ford, Tesla, VW and others.
Consumer attitudes about self-driving cars are mixed. Some consumers are intrigued by the possibility, but many worry about safety. A September 2016 survey by brand agency Sequence asked US internet users what connected device they would most like to receive as gift if money were not a factor. More than a quarter of respondents said they would want a self-driving car. On the other hand, a May 2016 survey by AYTM found that two-thirds of the internet users surveyed said they wouldn’t consider buying a self-driving car because of safety concerns.
Kenner addressed some of those concerns in the NHTSA letter, arguing for anonymized, cross-industry sharing of data about accidents and near-misses involving self-driving cars. “The industry can build a more comprehensive dataset than any one company could create alone,” he wrote.
The possibility of self-driving cars has such wide-ranging implications that entrants from a host of industries are pushing to get involved. The New York Times reported last week that Intel, Delphi Automotive and Mobileye plan to collaborate on a self-driving technology system that could be available for sale to automakers within the next two years.
BMW will be putting 40 of its autonomous vehicles on the streets of Munich with an eye toward taking a share of the ride-sharing industry. Uber began testing modified, self-driving Volvos in Pittsburgh in August. And Volkswagen, The Verge reports, has launched a spinoff company that will center around ride-hailing and on-demand autonomous vehicles.
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