Apple begs US regulators for fair game in autonomous car testing

Apple begs US regulators for fair game in autonomous car testing

Business news |
By Julien Happich

The letter is addressed by the Cupertino firm as “comments” on the recently proposed Federal Automated Vehicles Policy (Policy), published by the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Signed by Steve Kenner, Apple’s director of product integrity, the letter makes statements on the company’s use of machine learning to build smarter systems and its investments in machine learning for automated systems, including transportation, before calling for more data sharing between manufacturers to boost learning and increase overall road safety.

“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. By sharing data, the industry will build a more comprehensive dataset than any one company could create alone”, he wrote.

The Silicon Valley giant is also calling for industry-wide cooperation on data when Kenner writes: “Apple looks forward to collaborating with other stakeholders to define the specific data that should be shared”.

With this piece of advice to the NHTSA, the company aims to drive best practices for the whole industry while not being left behind as a new entrant in the automotive sector.

“To maximise the safety benefits of automated vehicles, encourage innovation, and promote fair competition, established manufacturers and new entrants should be treated equally,” Apple writes.

The letter becomes more specific regarding testing vehicles still under development on public roads, with a full chapter trying to convince the regulator that all would win, car makers and the general public’s safety, if more exemptions were the norm.

It reads: “Instead of applying for exemptions, all companies should be given an opportunity to implement internal safety processes summarized in a Safety Assessment. This is the most efficient and effective way to ensure that development vehicles are designed and operated with a level of safety equivalent to best practices and FMVSS and will not be used by the general public.

While NHTSA does not have the ability to amend the FAST Act, it can amend the Policy to state that exemptions are not required for the controlled testing of internal development vehicles on public roads, provided they will never be used by the general public. This would create a fair environment for all companies to make progress toward automated vehicles.”

Apple makes these recommendations with an emphasis on changing the rules so that new entrants can more easily participate in the game.

The company is also aiming large by recommending the NHTSA to include ethical considerations in its Policy, citing the broad and deep human impact that autonomous cars will have on society as a whole, based on their algorithmic decisions. The data should not be shared at the expense of privacy and security, it insists.


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