Video reveals close-up look of Apple's mysterious minivan project

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2015
A new video obtained by AppleInsider on Monday reveals more detail on Apple's camera-equipped minivans, with views of the interior showing at least two people man the vehicles during testing operations.



In the short video seen above, sent in by AppleInsider reader Peter, a white Dodge Caravan driving through Coral Springs, Fla., sports the same peculiar roof-mounted equipment array seen on other vehicles linked to an internal Apple program.

Today's video is one of the first to show the van's interior while in operation, where at least one passenger can be seen interacting with a small handheld device thought to be an iPad mini. The footage fails to show the tablet's screen, but it can be assumed that the device connects with onboard testing or surveying equipment as a data reader or command and control module. As seen in the video, the driver quickly hides the device from view when alerted to the camera's presence.

Automobile manufacturers take a similar approach when road testing new vehicles. A two-man team usually takes a long cross-country route to test various predefined data points, including gas mileage, unforeseen manufacturing issues and overall performance. Both a driver and passenger are usually required for testing.

As for the Apple vans, early speculation claimed the company was working on an autonomous self-driving car in the vein of cutting-edge products from Tesla and experimental cars from Google. Considering that the mysterious vans have been spotted across the U.S., importantly in states that would require special permits for self-driving vehicles, Apple's project is more likely aimed an advanced mapping initiative.

The first vans were first spotted last week in the San Francisco Bay Area, with follow-up sightings in Hawaii, Wisconsin and Panama.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 52
    jfc1138jfc1138 Posts: 3,090member
    They're just out testing iOS 9 on the new iPhone 6s: bolted to a mininvan so no jackass employee loses the $^*(*&%% thing in another bar!
  • Reply 2 of 52
    Just Drove by one about an hour and a half ago driving through Stanford Shopping Center. Not such an uncommon occurence around here anymore. I seen the van several times now.
  • Reply 3 of 52
    Have you seen one, mstone? Sounds as though they've been in your neck of the woods.
  • Reply 4 of 52
    Those vans don't appear to have the same kind of cameras and laser equipment that are used for mapping. Google and NavTeq have vans with big antennas and spinning lasers on top.

    Also there's not much in common for the places where the vans of been seen -- Wisconsin, Northern California, Hawaii, Florida, Panama ...

    I wonder if they are testing the reception of some kind of communication radio to replace cell phone radios.
  • Reply 5 of 52
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,312member

    Somebody want to tell me how they know this is Apple? I saw no markings, no signs, no logo. Who says this is Apple?

  • Reply 6 of 52
    nasseraenasserae Posts: 3,158member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post

     

    Somebody want to tell me how they know this is Apple? I saw no markings, no signs, no logo. Who says this is Apple?




    It was mentioned in an article a while back that someone checked the license plate number and found it was  registered to Apple.

  • Reply 7 of 52
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,429member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post

     

    Somebody want to tell me how they know this is Apple? I saw no markings, no signs, no logo. Who says this is Apple?




    "The California Department of Motor Vehicles confirmed to San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX that a blue Dodge Caravan spotted with the equipment was leased to Apple."

     

    Source: KPIX (almost two weeks ago) per http://appleinsider.com/articles/15/02/03/apple-testing-mysterious-camera-equipped-vehicles-in-the-bay-area

  • Reply 8 of 52
    One thing is for sure, whatever this is leading to won't be operational/available for years. Apple takes its time. Less interested in being first than being right.
  • Reply 9 of 52

    I wonder if Apple is only leasing Chrysler vehicles.

  • Reply 10 of 52
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jfc1138 View Post

    They're just out testing iOS 9 on the new iPhone 6s: bolted to a mininvan so no jackass employee loses the $^*(*&%% thing in another bar!

     

    This is one of the most plausible posts I've seen on this subject!

    (and one of the funniest.)

  • Reply 11 of 52
    In my opinion, this is likely a project to improve Apple Maps 3D feature. I believe it is likely that Apple discovered that performing flyovers of every city larger than 100,000 people in North America is impractical while deploying a large number of automobiles is more efficient and effective at generating data. I suspect that the quality and quantity of data may be sufficient to displace the "need" for "street views." If my hypothesis is correct, Apple may be able to release the product of their effort this year. Imagine virtually every significant city in North American with high quality 3-dimensional imagery.
  • Reply 12 of 52
    Quote:



    Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

    . . .

    Also there's not much in common for the places where the vans of been seen -- Wisconsin, Northern California, Hawaii, Florida, Panama …

    . . .

    Maybe what they have in common is that they're all over the place!

  • Reply 13 of 52
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,429member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by island hermit View Post

     

    I wonder if Apple is only leasing Chrysler vehicles.




    I doubt that Apple specifically picked a car manufacturer, more likely found the ideal model at an attractive volume price.

     

    Perhaps for this specific project they did, mostly because it makes retrofitting the vehicle with special gear easier than managing multiple vehicle configurations. Choosing a specific model that doesn't change often is beneficial in this case, much like police departments or taxi companies sticking with Crown Victorias.

     

    Heck, Southwest Airlines mostly flies Boeing 737s, so pilots are familiar with the equipment, plus maintenance, spare parts, etc. is more manageable as well from a logistics/operations standpoint.

     

    Apple would probably benefit from cheaper volume fleet pricing, just like car rental companies or city governments leasing a bunch of the same model.

  • Reply 14 of 52
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mpantone View Post

     



    "The California Department of Motor Vehicles confirmed to San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX that a blue Dodge Caravan spotted with the equipment was leased to Apple."

     

    Source: KPIX (almost two weeks ago) per http://appleinsider.com/articles/15/02/03/apple-testing-mysterious-camera-equipped-vehicles-in-the-bay-area


     

    What business is it of the motor vehicle department to confirm a license plate belongs to a certain individual or company? I had a situation in the past where I spotted vandals and got the license plate and wanted to find out who they were. The motor vehicle department said they weren't allowed to release any information and I had to give the license plate to the police, who would then be able to follow up on it.

     

    Seems sketchy to me.

  • Reply 15 of 52
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,179member

    Not a fan of these paparazzi assholes stalking these vehicles. Let people do their jobs in peace without shoving a video camera up their asses. Anything for clicks I guess. 

  • Reply 16 of 52
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,429member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by EricTheHalfBee View Post

     

     

    What business is it of the motor vehicle department to confirm a license plate belongs to a certain individual or company? I had a situation in the past where I spotted vandals and got the license plate and wanted to find out who they were. The motor vehicle department said they weren't allowed to release any information and I had to give the license plate to the police, who would then be able to follow up on it.

     

    Seems sketchy to me.




    It is in the interest of the DMV to release such information to a media outlet because of the nature of the odd vehicle modifications. These are  vehicles with strange modifications, so it is a public service that the information stating that the vehicles were leased by a publicly traded company (and not Al-Qaida).

     

    Presumably, the news media can ask these questions in the interest of public knowledge.

     

    But hey, I'm just some random guy commenting on a rumor site. Go ask the DMV why they divulged the information to KPIX.

  • Reply 17 of 52
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post

     

    Not a fan of these paparazzi assholes stalking these vehicles. Let people do their jobs in peace without shoving a video camera up their asses. Anything for clicks I guess. 


     

     

    Well, they got yours.

  • Reply 18 of 52
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post



    Those vans don't appear to have the same kind of cameras and laser equipment that are used for mapping. Google and NavTeq have vans with big antennas and spinning lasers on top.



    Also there's not much in common for the places where the vans of been seen -- Wisconsin, Northern California, Hawaii, Florida, Panama ...



    I wonder if they are testing the reception of some kind of communication radio to replace cell phone radios.

    If you look at the one in the video in this article it has a spinning laser on the front and the rear and there both spinning.  So I would think that is is a precision mapping vehicle.

  • Reply 19 of 52

    If they're making a self-driving car, you'd think they'd pick a less rubbish car. This is for Maps.

  • Reply 20 of 52
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Benjamin Frost View Post



    Have you seen one, mstone? Sounds as though they've been in your neck of the woods.

    I did see one in Southern California, where I am now, not in Panama. I'm not sure who saw it, although I know we have at least one other Panama forum poster. The van would likely be in Ciudad Panamá where all the skyscrapers are. I live hundreds of kilometers from there up in the mountains near the Barú volcano. That is where the coffee farms are. I doubt they would make mapping that region a priority although it would be nice because Apple Maps in that area is total crap.

     

    Ciudad Panamá

    image 

    Panama City has only a tenth the population of LA county but I think they might have double the amount of high rise floor space. Of course only about a third of it is actually occupied. A lot of laundered drug money built those skyscrapers, although there are also some legitimate buildings like Trump towers (center with the curved sail like shape), that is if you consider casino money as legitimate. Unfortunately the entire city is serviced with a water, power and and sewage system built in the 40s by the Army Corp of Engineers so it is vastly under capacity for the size of the city.

     

    Barú volcano

    Volcan Baru

    This is a view from the south west. My vista is from the south east side but this view is very dramatic and also represents the major destruction zone when the volcano erupts again. Where my property is located is much safer although I do have volcanic rock on parts of my land. The timetable for another eruption is any time now on a 675 year cycle. The unfortunate issue is that Baru is very explosive not like Hawaii where lava flows. Baru explodes. This image represents the mountain with the top third blown away.

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