Latest Apple mystery van sightings occur in California, Florida, Hawaii, Arizona [u]

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2015
Apple's mapping efforts appear to be growing, as AppleInsider readers continue to spot mysterious sensor-laden vans, just like the ones previously confirmed to be registered to Apple, roaming around the United States.


A sensor-covered van in Hawaii, seen by AppleInsider reader Stig.


In the past few days alone, readers spotted presumed Apple vans in San Jose; the San Francisco Bay area; Doral, Fla.; the Big Island of Hawaii; and Phoenix, Ariz. They join previous sightings sent from tipsters in Madison, Wisc.; Coral Springs, Fla.; Richmond, Calif.; New York; and Panama City, Panama.

In all cases, the vehicles have been Dodge Caravans featuring roof-mounted equipment arrays. The cars appear to be carrying camera equipment, LiDAR sensors and GPS antennas.


Mystery van on Highway 17 in San Jose, seen by reader Shomil.


The regular sightings of the mysterious vehicles come as Apple is rumored to be working on an electric car that the company could sell at some point. However, despite the timing, it's not likely that the vans are a part of that project.

Instead, it's likely that Apple is using the sensors to bolster its Maps service, in a manner much like Google Street View does with its own vehicles on the road.


Presumed Apple van in a San Francisco Bay area neighborhood, photographed by reader Paul.


By mapping on the ground, Apple could improve the quality of its Flyover 3D feature in Maps. The company could also opt to add its own Street View-type mode, offering more direct competition with Google Maps.

Whatever the vans are being used for, AppleInsider reader Shomil spotted one of the presumed Apple vans on Highway 17 in San Jose, while Paul saw a similar vehicle driving in a neighborhood in Livermore, in the San Francisco Bay area.


And another van seen near Miami on Monday by reader Leo.


Reader Stig actually spotted two sensor-covered Caravans with California plates driving around the island of Hawaii. The light grey van was seen at the end of Highway 270 North, while the dark grey vehicle was spotted at the Kona Commons Shopping Center. Both vans were said to have both a driver and a passenger.

And AppleInsider reader Leo saw another, similar Dodge Caravan in Doral, Fla., Monday morning, near Miami.

Update: Reader Daniel has seen a few Apple vans in Phoenix, Ariz., including this one he snapped a picture of on Saturday. It was spotted on the 101 and 7th Street.




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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 63
    Please just let them do their job, folks. We know what a "sensor-laden van" looks like already.
  • Reply 2 of 63
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,644member
    The more pictures of vans we see the more true the wildly speculative rumours become!
  • Reply 3 of 63
    And finally, <em>AppleInsider</em> reader Leo saw another, similar Dodge Caravan in Doral, Fla., Monday morning, near Miami.

    <img class="gallery" src=http://photos.appleinsidercdn.com/gallery/11901-5350-IMG_1122-m.jpg alt="" /></a></div></li></ul></div>

    I think we are getting it backwards.
  • Reply 4 of 63
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,644member
    What's the weird thing on the rear wheel? Is that normal?
  • Reply 5 of 63

    I recently downloaded the 28 keynote address videos Apple has on iTunes to watch history unfold.

     

    While watching the Macworld San Francisco 2008 Keynote Address by Steve Jobs, I had to laugh about how excited he was about Apple being able to sell 4 million iPhones in the United States in the first 200 days of the iPhone's release!

     

    What made me stop watching the keynote to add a comment here starts at 17:50 minutes into the keynote.

     

    Here is what Steve Jobs had to say about Skyhook Wireless being used in an iPhone that did not have a GPS chip... "driven the US and Canada in little cars with  antennas on them and GPS receivers in them and they mapped Wi-Fi hotspots.... Europe and Asia... triangulate beacons...".

     

    At that time, Google was triangulating cell towers.

     

    Apple Maps just might be getting a major upgrade later this year in iOS 9!

  • Reply 6 of 63

    I bet these become very popular shortly. I can see Apple testing out a small fleet of these while they optimize the software and make sure the data being captured for Apple Maps is working correctly. Once they are running smoothly I can see them expanding the fleet greatly.

     

    It's rumored Google has 250-300 vehicles for mapping. I could see Apple going far beyond that so they can bring Apple Maps version of "street view" up to speed much quicker.

  • Reply 7 of 63
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Crowley View Post



    What's the weird thing on the rear wheel? Is that normal?

     

    It's been mentioned before. It's used to measure distance traveled. Far more accurate than a vehicle odometer (which is often out by 5-10%).

  • Reply 8 of 63
    bcodebcode Posts: 138member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by EricTheHalfBee View Post

     

     

    It's been mentioned before. It's used to measure distance traveled. Far more accurate than a vehicle odometer (which is often out by 5-10%).




    Not to mention that interfacing the data-collecting computer with the vehicles Odometer is much more technically challenging than slapping a sensor on the tire and running the cable through the window.

  • Reply 9 of 63
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Crowley View Post



    What's the weird thing on the rear wheel? Is that normal?



    I believe that is called dead reckoning. It tracks wheel tick and integrates it with the GPS. It enhances the accuracy of the location based on last known location for areas of poor GPS reception. It can also calculate elevation based on vehicle incline combined with distance traveled.

  • Reply 10 of 63
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,644member
    ^ thanks both. I must have missed that discussion ????
  • Reply 11 of 63
    Please just let them do their job, folks. We know what a "sensor-laden van" looks like already.

    What, what?! How they not letting them do their jobs?


    crowley wrote: »
    What's the weird thing on the rear wheel? Is that normal?


    55671


    Apple Maps just might be getting a major upgrade later this year in iOS 9!

    That seems the most reasonable answer. Hopefully we get the news at WWDC when they introduce iOS 9, but it may also be a major feature that would make sense to reveal in September with the next iPhone update, even though likely will be available to current iPhones.
  • Reply 12 of 63
    solipsismy wrote: »
    What, what?! How they not letting them do their jobs?
    1000
    That seems the most reasonable answer. Hopefully we get the news at WWDC when they introduce iOS 9, but it may also be a major feature that would make sense to reveal in September with the next iPhone update, even though likely will be available to current iPhones.

    ????
  • Reply 13 of 63
    Here is what Steve Jobs had to say about Skyhook Wireless being used in an iPhone that did not have a GPS chip... "d<span style="line-height:1.4em;">riven the US and Canada in little cars with  antennas on them and GPS receivers in them and they mapped Wi-Fi hotspots.... Europe and Asia... triangulate beacons...".</span>

    At that time, Google was triangulating cell towers.

    And Google got in trouble for recording WiFI hotspots, but perhaps that was from recording their passwords.

    I bet these become very popular shortly. I can see Apple testing out a small fleet of these while they optimize the software and make sure the data being captured for Apple Maps is working correctly. Once they are running smoothly I can see them expanding the fleet greatly.

    It's rumored Google has 250-300 vehicles for mapping. I could see Apple going far beyond that so they can bring Apple Maps version of "street view" up to speed much quicker.

    1) I asked that on a different article: How many of these vehicles are needed to cover all non-rural areas in the US, the entirety of US roads, and world within a certain time frame? If we're talking 300 vehicles for the world and the images seem to be updated every 3 years that translates to covering 1/3 of the world's roads in that time frame.

    I wonder what Google has learned in that time from Street View? I wonder what Apple plans to do different, over adding LiDAR? Personally, I'd like to see all the cars, people, and other non-permanent items removed from scene automatically in post production. I think it would look nice to have these LiDAR images offer and unobstructed view when possible.

    2) So far, we've only seen proof of a half-dozen vehicles. Could there be hundreds more that have escaped detection? That seems unlikely, so how long would it take for 6 vehicles to map the US?

    3) So far it seems that these vehicles are only mapping the areas that don't have snow. I guess it would make sense to not get a snow covered mapping of an area so I would expect the North will see these vehicles when the snow clears in the coming months.
  • Reply 14 of 63
    ????

    I'm glad they included the area for the driver. I wouldn't want anyone to think the driver is in the back or that these are already self-driving. :D
  • Reply 15 of 63
    solipsismy wrote: »
    I'm glad they included the area for the driver. I wouldn't want anyone to think the driver is in the back or that these are already self-driving.

    Good point.
  • Reply 16 of 63
    I wonder, since the cat is out of the bag anyway, if Apple could get some benefit by sticking a big white logo on these vans? Let people know that Apple is out there doing things in the real world.
  • Reply 17 of 63
    Apple will bring Map to street level. But the approach is not like others. You will be looking from Fly over view and then you can zoom in to the street with a very precise and clear view. As you all see currently, streets on Flyover is so ugly. They will fix it once Map is upgraded.
  • Reply 18 of 63
    Wow that wonderful good point and I saw white van dodge in Florida last time ago before there. Apple van support is drive test on around in usa finally about time thumb up!!
  • Reply 19 of 63
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismY View Post



    I'm glad they included the area for the driver. I wouldn't want anyone to think the driver is in the back or that these are already self-driving. image



    In a few of those shots you can see a passenger as well. I met a guy with a mapping van at the Chevy dealer one time when I was getting my oil changed. He worked for Microsoft doing mapping. He was waiting for service but he let me look inside the van. He worked alone. I wonder why Apple needs two people.

     

    One other thing I noticed in the photos was something attached to the windshield. In one photo it is on the driver's side and the other on the passenger side. I wonder what that is.

  • Reply 20 of 63
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mstone View Post

     

     I met a guy with a mapping van at the Chevy dealer one time when I was getting my oil changed. He worked for Microsoft doing mapping. He was waiting for service but he let me look inside the van.


     

    Did they make him wait five hours before he could talk to a service tech...

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