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Apple to join the fiercely competitive race to design Self-driving Cars

The California Department of Motor Vehicles had awarded a permit for the company to start testing its self-driving car technology on public roads in the state.

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The Apple logo is shown above a store location entrance, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, in Dallas. Apple is schedule to release their iPhone 5S on Friday. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez), VOA
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San Francisco, April 15, 2017: Apple is joining the fiercely competitive race to design self-driving cars, raising the possibility that a company that has already re-shaped culture with its iPhone may try to transform transportation, too.

Ending years of speculation, Apple’s late entry into a crowded field was made official Friday with the disclosure that the California Department of Motor Vehicles had awarded a permit for the company to start testing its self-driving car technology on public roads in the state.

The permit covers three vehicles — all 2015 Lexus RX 450h hybrid SUVs — and six individual drivers. California law requires people to be in a self-driving car who can take control if something goes wrong.

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Apple Goes Mobile … In a New Way

Apple confirmed its arrival in the self-driving car market, but wouldn’t discuss its intentions. Its interest in autonomous vehicle technology, however, has long been clear .

The Cupertino, California, company pointed to a statement that it issued in December. “Apple is investing heavily in machine learning and autonomous systems,” the company said then. “There are many potential applications for these technologies, including the future of transportation.”

Apple released that statement after Steve Kenner, a former Ford Motor executive who is now Apple’s director of product integrity, notified federal regulators of the company’s interest in self-driving cars in a letter.

Like others, Apple believes self-driving cars could ease congestion and save millions of people who die annually in traffic accidents often caused by drunk or distracted motorists.

Self-driving cars could also be a lucrative new market. And Apple has been searching for its next act for a while, one that will take it beyond its mainstay phones, tablets and personal computers.

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A Next Big Thing

Although iPhone’s ongoing popularity has helped Apple remain the world’s most valuable company, the company hasn’t had a breakthrough product since the 2010 debut of the iPad, currently in the throes of a three-year sales slump. The dry spell has raised doubts as to whether Apple lost some of its trend-setting magic with the death of co-founder Steve Jobs in 2011.

Apple will be vying against 29 other companies that already have California permits to test self-driving cars. The list includes major automakers, including Ford, General Motors, BMW, Volkswagen and Tesla, as well as one of its biggest rivals in technology, Google, whose testing of self-driving cars has been spun off into an affiliate called Waymo.

Since Google began its work on self-driving vehicles eight years ago, Waymo’s fleet of self-driving cars has logged more than 2 million miles on the road.

That means Apple has a long way to catch up in self-driving technology. But it has often been a follower in markets that it eventually revolutionized. It wasn’t the first to introduce a digital music player, smartphone, or tablet before its iPod, iPhone and iPad came out.

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Deep Pockets

With $246 billion in cash, Apple also could easily afford to buy technology that accelerates its development of self-driving cars. There has been recurring speculation that Apple might eventually acquire Tesla, which has a market value of about $50 billion. Neither Apple nor Tesla has given any inkling that they’re interested in joining forces, though.

Speculation about Apple’s interest in expanding into automobiles began swirling in 2015 amid media reports that the company had begun secretly working on building its own electric car under the name project “Titan.” Apple never confirmed the existence of Titan, which is now believed to be dead. (VOA)

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Apple’s Head Of Search and Head of Siri’s Advanced Development quits Amidst Siri Reshuffle

According to a report in The Information on Thursday, Apple has confirmed both the departures

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According to a report in The Information on Thursday, Apple has confirmed both the departures. Pixabay

Apple’s Head of Search Vipul Ved Prakash and Tom Gruber, Head of Siri’s Advanced Development Group, have quit the company which is currently reshuffling its Siri team.

According to a report in The Information on Thursday, Apple has confirmed both the departures.

One of the original Siri co-founders, Gruber “will be pursuing personal interests in photography and ocean conservation”.

Prakash joined Apple in 2013 after Apple acquired the search engine and analytics firm Topsy where he served as a CEO.

“The deal was valued at upwards of $224 million. Apple shut down Topsy two years after its acquisition,” reports 9to5mac.com.

Revealing its future plans, Apple last week formally announced to make ex-Google executive John Giannandrea its Chief of Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy.

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Apple has invested in Siri and HomeKit to compete with Google Home and Alexa-based smart home systems. Flickr

Reporting to CEO Tim Cook, Giannandrea who joined Apple in April will be in charge of Apple’s ML division, Siri and the Core ML team.

Giannandrea will look after further development of Core ML and Siri technologies.

According to media reports, Apple lags behind from Google and Amazon in key AI areas like Natural Language Processing (NLP) and computer vision needed to power voice assistant features in Siri.

Apple has invested in Siri and HomeKit to compete with Google Home and Alexa-based smart home systems.

Also Read-Apple Gets a New AI Chief to Oversee Siri, Machine Learning

In 2017, Apple added an AI chip called Neural Engine to the A11 Bionic for the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X to work with the Image Signal Processor (ISP). (IANS)