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Apple shows ambition to get into self-driving car race

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Apple Inc is wading into the debate over regulation of self-driving cars, declaring it is excited about the potential for automated transportation and calling on US regulators not to restrict testing of such vehicles.

A five-page letter from Steve Kenner, Apple’s director of product integrity, to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the company’s most comprehensive statement yet about its interest in self-driving vehicle technology. The Nov 22 letter followed more than a year of industry speculation about the computer and iPhone maker’s plans for expanding into transportation.

“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,” Kenner wrote.

“Executed properly under NHTSA’s guidance, automated vehicles have the potential to greatly enhance the human experience — to prevent millions of car crashes and thousands of fatalities each year and to give mobility to those without.”

Apple urged regulators not to impose too many restrictions on testing of self-driving cars, saying “established manufacturers and new entrants should be treated equally.”

Since software would decide what actions to take in potentially dangerous situations, Apple said certain areas need special attention. These include the implications of algorithmic decisions for the safety, mobility and legality of automated vehicles and their occupants, ensuring privacy and security in design, and the impact of the cars on employment and public spaces.

Some analysts forecast millions of jobs will be lost once self-driving cars largely replace truck, taxi and Uber drivers, and eliminate the need for most vehicle repairs, insurance adjusters and other functions.

Apple’s letter was prompted by its heavy investment in machine learning and autonomous systems, company spokesman Tom Neumayr said in an emailed statement.

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