Apple (AAPL) - Get Report has always been a difficult company when it comes to figuring out its future products. The Cupertino, Calif.-based juggernaut prides itself on its secrecy and rolling out products on its terms, not someone else's.
However, there's one sure way for the investment community to get a pulse on what could be coming down the pipeline from the world's largest tech company -- patents.
When the company files patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the public can gain further insight into what it's working on.
Now it should be noted that this doesn't necessarily mean Apple will produce this specific product or incorporate a certain feature. It only means it is a project of the company's and is something it's working on.
In this case, Apple's working on a collision avoidance system, presumably intended for use as part of a self-driving car platform or program.
The company's rumored project, dubbed "Project Titan," has apparently seen its ups and downs. And it's still unclear whether the company plans to create self-driving car software, hardware or both.
Apple could also consider building its own vehicles or acquiring an automaker, but both methods seem pricey. Given that so little is known about the company's plans, it's easy to speculate, but difficult to do so in any reliable manner.
On the plus side though, we do know that the company at least has it on the whiteboard.
Shares of Apple closed at $112.12 Thursday, up 1%.
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While Apple is getting its ducks in a row with "Project Titan," another tech player is looking to shore up its division as well.
Unlike Apple's secrecy, Alphabet (GOOGL) - Get Report has been very public with its self-driving efforts. The company currently holds its self-driving car unit in its "moonshot" category, but will look to elevate its status sometime soon.
The company is hiring additional personnel to deal with additional tasks -- tasks that its current structure already takes care of. That, and comments from its project leader John Krafcik, all point to Google's auto division going on its own.
While that may very well be the case, it doesn't necessarily mean we'll see a Google car, at least commercially, on the road any time soon.
Like Apple, we're still not sure what strategy the company will adopt when it comes to rolling out its self-driving car technology. Will it acquire an automaker or build its own vehicles? Will it work with municipalities on providing some sort of mass transportation? Or will Google simply license the technology to automakers?
There's a lot of unknowns, but as the industry continues to quickly gain ground, answers won't be too far away.
Shares of Alphabet closed at $795.17 Thursday, up 0.5%.
Not long ago, Facebook (FB) - Get Report notified its customers that its advertising methods weren't as effective as previously thought. It's a good thing Facebook found the error and not some third party.
In any regard, that doesn't seem to be slowing down advertisers from considering Facebook as a go-to platform when it comes to reaching its customers. The company is likely to become WPP's second-largest media supplier next year.
This news comes from WPP CEO Martin Sorrell, who heads the world's largest advertising company. Luckily for Google, the company will reap about $5.5 billion in sales from WPP, up more than 37% from last year's $4 billion.
Sorrell also suggested that Snapchat could see a larger amount spent on its platform as well next year.
Shares of Facebook closed at $118.91 Thursday, up 0.8%.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.