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Apple renews self-driving car ambitions as it seeks ‘revolutionary’ sensors

Apple renews self-driving car ambitions as it seeks 'revolutionary' sensors

Apple might be getting back into the self-driving car game

APPLE IS REPORTEDLY in talks with at least four companies as possible suppliers of lidar sensors intended to be used in self-driving cars, a report published in Reuters claimed.

While it is not yet clear if Apple really wants to launch its own autonomous car, the report suggests the firm is interested in at least developing hardware and software components for self-driving vehicles.

Three people ‘familiar with the matter’ told Reuters that the iPhone maker is looking for lidars that are smaller and cheaper than currently available units, which cost tens of thousands of dollars each.

Lidar is a sensing device that helps onboard computers to build a 3D view of the road. The company wants a “revolutionary design” from third-party suppliers and is also working on its own technology.

Current lidar systems cost around $100,000. Apple is already using lidar units designed by Velodyne on its fleet of autonomous test vehicles, but, a major issue with these lidars is that they are bulky and not appropriate for mass-produced consumer vehicles.

Apple’s interest in lidar sensors is a clear indication of the company’s renewed ambitions to enter the electric and/or autonomous vehicle market at some point in the future.

But, Reuters’ sources did not reveal whether the company is planning to build its own autonomous vehicle or just wants to supply the software and hardware components of such vehicles in partnership with some other company.

What is clear, however, is that Apple wants to control the ‘perception stack’ of sensors, software and other components to drive a self-driving car, regardless of who makes the vehicle.

Last year, Apple brought back Doug Field to work on Project Titan. Field is an Apple veteran and was Tesla’s engineering chief.

Project Titan is Apple’s electric car project, which has never been publically discussed by the company. Last year, the BBC reported that Apple already has 66 registered self-driving cars in the US, with 111 drivers registered to operate those vehicles.

Last month, the company hired Michael Schwekutsch, who has also worked on electric drivetrain technology at Elon Musk’s Tesla electric car manufacturer.

Apple’s test vehicles reportedly drove about 130,000 kilometres in California last year, compared to 1,300 kilometres in 2017. µ

Further reading

Source : Inquirer

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