Apple’s (AAPL) self-driving car has been spotted on the roads in Cupertino, according to a report by the Last Driver License Holder. Apple might be testing its new sensor arrangement. Though it’s not clear what kind of sensor Apple is testing, it looks like a slimmer smart design fitted onto the roof. In the past, Apple has used cameras, LiDAR, and radar in its self-driving cars.
Apple’s self-driving car sensors
Apple targets the production of economical, lightweight, safe, and smart self-driving cars. Currently, LiDAR systems are costly and can’t be efficiently used in the mass production of vehicles. Apple is in talks with suppliers to produce smaller, sturdier, more economic next-generation LiDAR systems. The company is also looking at its own design and development of the LiDAR unit.
Apple’s peers Ford (F), Alphabet (GOOGL) (GOOG), and General Motors (GM) continue to invest in LiDAR technology. With its investment in Argo AI, Ford aims to provide itself with access to cost-efficient LiDAR technology. General Motors uses a combination of camera, LiDAR, and radar in its self-driving cars. Google’s Waymo also uses this combination in its autonomous vehicles.
However, Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk doesn’t advocate LiDAR technology. According to Musk, “LiDAR is a fool’s errand, and anyone who relies on LiDAR is doomed. It’s like having expensive appendices. You’ll see.” Tesla believes that cameras and AI can efficiently maneuver self-driving vehicles.
Self-driving car ambition
Apple is quite hush-hush about its autonomous car project. Until now, the company has revealed no specific details about its plans in the segment. However, it’s researching, developing, and testing technologies for the production of self-driving vehicles.
Apple’s self-driving car plans are taking shape via its secret Project Titan. Apple formed this project to apply its machine learning technology and autonomous systems across its products (not just cars). The company deemed Titan its most ambitious project. However, Apple presumably altered the project’s scope from producing hardware and software to the production of only software for self-driving cars. Earlier this year, Apple removed about 200 employees from the project. Despite the hiccups, Apple seems to be aggressively testing more autonomous vehicles in California.
Plus, Apple’s acquisition of Drive.ai reflected its focus on the autonomous car segment. Apple acquired the startup company when it was on the brink of closure. Drive.ai ran a fleet of autonomous test vehicles. The acquisition meant several Drive.ai engineers would join Apple’s team. Drive.ai created its machine-learning technology to better understand objects on the road for the safe movement of self-driving cars.
Though Apple’s self-driving car plans are secretive, the company seems to be making strides in the autonomous segment with its testing.
To learn more about Apple’s peers’ plans for self-driving vehicles, read Autonomous Cars: Ford and Tesla Have Big Plans.