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apple carApple has been working on self-driving tech for a few years.Samantha Lee/Business Insider
  • A new patent application from Apple appears to be the company’s first publicly available peek into its self-driving car research.
  • The patent shows how Apple is thinking about autonomous vehicle navigation.
  • It also shows how Apple is thinking about a user interface for self-driving cars.

Apple published what appears to be its first publicly available patent application for self-driving car technology on Thursday.

The patent, which was first picked up by Patently Apple, involves navigation systems for autonomous vehicles. In particular, it addresses how vehicles can learn changes to routes as environments change due to construction, weather, and other factors.

But the most interesting part of the application gives a hint at a potential user interface for self-driving cars running Apple software. The diagrams show a mapping screen that gives the driver an option to select an alternative route or switch from manual to autonomous mode.

Take a look:

apple self driving patentUSPTO

apple self driving patentUSPTO

apple self driving patentUSPTO

Apple has been reportedly working on self-driving car technology for a few years. At first, the company wanted to build its own car, but those plans were scaled back last year, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Alex Webb. Instead, Apple appears to be working on the underlying technology that enables self-driving cars.

Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed to Bloomberg in June that Apple was exploring self-driving car tech. 

“We’re focusing on autonomous systems,” Cook said in the June interview. “It’s a core technology that we view as very important.”

He later added: “We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects. It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on.”

But Apple is likely behind rivals when it comes to self-driving cars. Google has been working on the problem for the better part of a decade, and created its own self-driving car company, Waymo, last year. Uber, Lyft, and traditional car manufacturers like GM and Ford are also working on self-driving cars.

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