MacRumors reports that Apple has hired a fleet of Lexus SUVs to test Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) equipment on the road.
Apple’s self-driving car initiative (internally codenamed Project Titan) generated some amusing headlines – such as keeping local neighbours awake thanks to late-night revving – before the campaign was ultimately canned when CEO Tim Cook announced that his company would instead pivot to produce self-dring car software.
While we never got to see an Apple-made car (there was that one patent depicting a bus with tank treads), MacRumors reports that the Cupertino company has now unleashed a fleet of Lexus SUVs in Sunnyvale, California with the view of testing new LIDAR setups.
LIDAR – Light Detection and Ranging – enables a vehicle or other craft to examine the surface of the Earth; distinct from previous setups, Apple appears to be testing a refined LIDAR array with numerous sensors and cameras mounted atop a 2016 Lexus 450h.
The equipment spans both the front and back of the SUV; MacRumors cites that radar modules equipped to the sides of the vehicle will enable it to measure distances to objects and further measure wheel movements. Cameras mounted onboard the LIDAR sensors would presumably enable the vehicle to detect cars, pedestrians, traffic lights, and other moving objects.
While it’s not clear what the eventual aim of the tests are, it is probable that Apple is seeking to collect data to better inform the eventual artificial intelligence that will take the reigns of its vehicles. For now, however, each vehicle has a flesh-and-blood pilot aboard to take the steering wheel in the event of a disaster.
A prior rumour indicated that Apple is considering using the vehicles as a testbed to ferry employees between different company offices in the local vicinity, meaning that the vehicles could well be pictured in different capacities towards the end of the year.
What are your thoughts? Would you trust a vehicle guided by Apple’s autonomous driving software? Be sure to let us know your opinion in the comments below!