Apple has had several Lexus SUVs equipped with sensors and cameras out on the road to test its self-driving software platform since April, but MacRumors reader Amy, who lives near one of Apple’s offices in Sunnyvale, California, recently spotted one of Apple’s Lexus SUVs with a new LIDAR setup.
Amy sees Apple’s autonomous SUVs on a regular basis in the Sunnyvale area, which was previously rumored to be the spot where Apple is conducting all of its “Project Titan” research. The Lexus in question is parked directly outside of Apple’s Sunnyvale location.
The vehicle has a different LIDAR arrangement than we’ve seen previously, with far more sensors and cameras at the top. Apple also appears to have added new Lexus models to its testing fleet. Prior vehicles spotted were 2015 Lexus 450h SUVs, while this vehicle is a 2016 or 2017 Lexus 450h with a new design.
It isn’t immediately clear what function the additional LIDAR sensors serve, but Apple is using these vehicles to test its self-driving software platform that’s in development. Other LIDAR arrangements have also been spotted atop Apple’s SUVs.
As can be seen in the photos and video, there are two main LIDAR setups at the front and the back of the vehicle, each surrounded by four other components laden with sensors and cameras.
The LIDAR systems on the car are designed to send out laser beams to allow the car to accurately detect its surroundings, essentially creating a 3D map of the environment around the vehicle.
GPS sensors allow the car to orient itself relative to its surroundings, helped along by radars located at the front and back of the car to measure distances to objects and wheel sensors to measure wheel movements. Cameras located near the LIDAR sensors let the car detect traffic lights, people, cars, and other moving objects.
It’s a highly complex system, and Apple’s SUVs are collecting enormous amounts of data every second and then processing it with Apple’s unique software to pilot the car.
While Apple is testing self-driving vehicles, there are people in the vehicles at all times ready to take over should something go wrong. The photos we’re sharing today clearly depict both a driver and a passenger monitoring the car’s progress.
Apple’s car project started off with the company planning to develop a complete autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicle, but internal strife, leadership issues, and other problems led Apple to shift focus.
Along with the SUVs, rumors suggest Apple will soon test its self-driving technology in a self-driving campus shuttle designed to ferry Apple employees between different Apple offices in the Bay Area.
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