While he declined to confirm any real details of what Apple is planning to release – if anything – he did give an indication of what the company might look to do if it does release a car, as rumoured.
He noted that “an autonomous car is a robot” and that Apple looks to integrate hardware and software in all of its products. But the company “investigate so many things internally”, many of which never actually “see the light of day”, he told Kara Swisher in an interview for her New York Times podcast, Sway.
In the same intervew, Mr Cook also discussed his commitment to free speech, his hope that controversial social media app Parler could return to the App Store, and Apple’s ongoing fight with competitors including Facebook.
Apple has been rumoured to be working on car technology for years. Rumours have suggested that the nature of that work has changed over time – to include building both an entire car or just the technology that powers it – but have consistently indicated that Apple is secretly working on a new product related to transport in some form.
Ms Swisher noted that Apple had bought a self-driving startup called Drive AI, and that Elon Musk had said he offered to sell Tesla to Apple for 10 per cent of its value. Mr Cook said that he had never spoken to Mr Musk, “although I have great admiration and respect for the company he’s built”.
But he went on to be typically reticent about what Apple’s plans are in the same market.
“In terms of the work that we’re doing there, obviously, I’m going to be a little coy on that,” he said during the interview. “The autonomy itself is a core technology, in my view. If you sort of step back, the car, in a lot of ways, is a robot. An autonomous car is a robot.
“And so there’s lots of things you can do with autonomy. And we’ll see what Apple does. We investigate so many things internally. Many of them never see the light of day. I’m not saying that one will not.”
Ms Swisher went on to ask whether the company was planning a whole car, or just the “technology within it”. While Mr Cook initially declined to answer, when pressed he cited Apple’s previous commitments both to integrating hardware and software as well as owning as much as it can of the technologies used in products.
“We love to integrate hardware, software, and services, and find the intersection points of those because we think that’s where the magic occurs. And so that’s what we love to do,” he said.
“And we love to own the primary technology that’s around that.”
Ms Swisher said she was going to take that answer as a suggestion that Apple was planning to build the car itself, on which Mr Cook did not comment.