SAN FRANCISCO/LONDON: After much speculation, tech giant Apple has confirmed plans to develop self-driving cars, but traditional automakers, including Volkswagen and Ford, are also working on similar initiatives.

Apple's acknowledgement came in a five-page letter sent by Steve Kenner, the company's head of product integrity, to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

As reported by the BBC, Kenner told the US transport regulator that Apple was "excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation".

He went on to urge the NHTSA not to introduce too many regulations about the testing of self-drive cars, saying that "established manufacturers and new entrants should be treated equally".

According to the Financial Times, that left open the possibility that Apple might go ahead and produce a self-driving car on its own rather than simply provide the necessary technology to an existing manufacturer.

"We've provided comments to NHTSA because Apple is investing heavily in machine learning and autonomous systems," Apple later confirmed in a statement.

"There are many potential applications for these technologies, including the future of transportation, so we want to work with NHTSA to help define the best practices for the industry."

The development came as Volkswagen, Europe's largest carmaker, yesterday announced that it is launching a new autonomous electric brand, called Moia, that will focus initially on ride-hailing and car-sharing.

Addressing the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in London, Ole Harms, CEO of the new start-up, said Moia aims to be one of the three biggest mobility providers in the world and to generate revenues of a couple of billion euros in a few years.

"We're a start-up with VW group's resources and we have a global aspiration," he said, in comments reported by Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, Ford revealed last week that it too is increasing its investment in electric and autonomous vehicles, with plans to launch its app-based, shuttle van Chariot in at least four European cities over the next 15 months.

Mark Fields, CEO of Ford, said at an event in Germany: "There's a lot of talk these days about technology companies and how they could disrupt the auto industry, but at Ford we are already well into the process of disrupting ourselves."

Data sourced from BBC, Financial Times, Bloomberg, Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff