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By Alyssa Newcomb

In a giant wink to the tech world, Apple kind of, sort of acknowledged the worst kept secret in Silicon Valley — that it is working on autonomous driving technology.

In a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the iPhone maker said it is "excited" about the potential for automation in numerous areas, "including transportation."

While it wasn't a full-on, engines roaring admission, Apple's letter, which included policy recommendations for the future of autonomous vehicles, is the biggest hint yet about its role in a self-driving future.

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So it begs the question: What would an Apple car look like and what advantages does Apple have if it chooses to enter the self-driving car space?

"It will come in white and have one button," Rebecca Lindland, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book said jokingly.

A Bloomberg report in October suggested Apple is moving away from its supposed ambition of building a car and has shifted its focus to building the brains to run the vehicle, leaving open the possibility of a partnership with another company.

At a time when many automakers and technology companies are working on self-driving vehicles, Apple has a couple of key advantages, beyond its deep pockets, for standing out from the competition, Lindland said.

"They certainly have some of the best engineers and software developers in the world...They're very forward thinking and let people try stuff out and that is a mindset that needs to be celebrated when we are in truly uncharted territory."

Apple made its entry into the automotive world in 2014 with CarPlay, a system that lets users link their iPhones to infotainment systems in some cars. The result is a safe and seamless iOS experience while driving, with Siri being the extra passenger.

Beyond that, the company has kept quiet about its possible ambitions for veering into the auto world. Lindland said she believes a partnership with an automaker would be a smart way for Apple to make it happen.

Apple has already stoked curiosity about its project, rumored to be codenamed Titan, with several high profile hires, including from Tesla.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in an interview earlier this year with the BBC that it was "obvious" what Apple was up to.

"It will expand the industry," Musk told the BBC. "Tesla will still aspire to make the most compelling electric vehicles, and that would be our goal, while at the same time helping other companies to make electric cars as well."

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Lindland said she expects Apple — and possibly other companies with autonomous tech ambitions — to make a play for partners as the technology revs up over the next few years.

"We are in a very exciting but very uncertain time," she said. "I think we will see more and more direct flights between San Francisco and Detroit."