Four ex-NASA engineers on Apple's list of autonomous car software testers

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware
Amidst three Apple employees involved in testing of Apple's self-driving car software stands an ex-NASA researcher who was once tasked to develop an autonomous vehicle to explore one of Jupiter's moons, and three others who worked for JPL.




In a report from The Wall Street Journal, one engineer serving as a test operator is noted as also having worked on automotive supplier Bosch's early efforts to develop a self-driving car, and on making autonomous wheelchairs drive more smoothly.

Other staffers testing the vehicle include three other engineers who worked at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Tasks worked on are detection of 3D objects, and motion planning algorithms.

All of the staff listed in the filing's names have since been redacted, and will not be included in this report at the request of the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

On Friday, a report revealed snippets of Apple's California Department of Motor Vehicles self-driving car application, offering insight into the company's autonomous vehicle project. Apple's full application was revealed a bit later, and incorporates a copy of the testing process it used to certify the six drivers who will pilot three modified 2015 Lexus RX450h SUVs.

Included in the informational packet are instruction sets, training goals and diagrams for each of the following tests: low speed driving, high speed driving, tight U-turns, sudden steering input, sudden acceleration, sudden braking and lane change. Three drivers have worked at Apple's Special Projects Group for two years as hardware and software engineers, according to their LinkedIn profiles.

"Pilots" are expected to pass seven rudimentary tests prior to taking the testbed out for data gathering drives. Tests listed include low speed and high speed driving, as well as drive system intervention including tight U-turns, sudden steering input, sudden acceleration and sudden braking. Drivers also need to take action in the case of faulty software lane change requests called a "conflicting turn signal and action."

Apple expects its test system to be capable of maintaining in-lane speeds of at least 65 miles per hour, change lanes automatically, brake when required and perform other basic functions.

Apple has long been rumored to be working on autonomous vehicle technology under the "Project Titan" aegis. The company reportedly abandoned efforts to create a branded car in late 2016 when former project leader Steve Zadesky left Apple and handed the reins over to senior VP of Hardware Engineering Dan Riccio.

Project Titan was later transferred to longtime executive Bob Mansfield, who subsequently culled hundreds of employees and refocused the program on self-driving software and supporting hardware.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 31
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member


    filler
    c0lapsequadra 610macseekerSpamSandwichwatto_cobrabestkeptsecretStrangeDays
  • Reply 2 of 31
    I wish Apple would put more energy into fixing their operating system and stop using customers as beta testers. 10.12.4 ruined my weekend (still ongoing)... Suggest upgraders proceed with extreme caution if using more than a most basic mac setup. Plug and Pray seems alive and well, and why the heck does apple make reverting to a prior OS version like the hunt for the Holy Grail ? Could we have at least a single restore point like the dreaded Windows, or prior os download/install options please, or better yet a fundamental choice of OS with new hardware ? User experience when things go wrong = epic fail...

    How will a car drive if the OS has so many issues?

    edited April 2017 kernapster
  • Reply 3 of 31
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 2,161member
    I wish Apple would put more energy into fixing their operating system and stop using customers as beta testers. 10.12.4 ruined my weekend (still ongoing)... Suggest upgraders proceed with extreme caution if using more than a most basic mac setup. Plug and Pray seems alive and well, and why the heck does apple make reverting to a prior OS version like the hunt for the Holy Grail ? Could we have at least a single restore point like or prior os download option please, or better yet choice of OS ? User experience when things go wrong = epic fail...

    How will a car drive if the OS has so many issues?

    Out of curiosity what do you consider a more advanced Mac setup? I have 10.12.4 on all my Mac's and not a single issue. 
    andrewj5790caliRayz2016watto_cobraStrangeDays
  • Reply 4 of 31
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,652member
    I wish Apple would put more energy into fixing their operating system and stop using customers as beta testers. 10.12.4 ruined my weekend (still ongoing)... Suggest upgraders proceed with extreme caution if using more than a most basic mac setup. Plug and Pray seems alive and well, and why the heck does apple make reverting to a prior OS version like the hunt for the Holy Grail ? Could we have at least a single restore point like the dreaded Windows, or prior os download/install options please, or better yet a fundamental choice of OS with new hardware ? User experience when things go wrong = epic fail...

    How will a car drive if the OS has so many issues?

    Upgraded my late 2009 iMac which I swapped out the HD with an SSD drive,  as well as my late 2015 iMac that I upgraded to 64GB, and a late 2012 MacBook Pro.  All machines upgraded without a hiccup.

    So it begs the question "What makes your setup so special"?  Do tell.
    watto_cobraStrangeDays
  • Reply 5 of 31
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,970member
    I wish Apple would put more energy into fixing their operating system and stop using customers as beta testers. 10.12.4 ruined my weekend (still ongoing)... Suggest upgraders proceed with extreme caution if using more than a most basic mac setup. Plug and Pray seems alive and well, and why the heck does apple make reverting to a prior OS version like the hunt for the Holy Grail ? Could we have at least a single restore point like the dreaded Windows, or prior os download/install options please, or better yet a fundamental choice of OS with new hardware ? User experience when things go wrong = epic fail...

    How will a car drive if the OS has so many issues?

    I'm sorry you're having issues, but you having an issue doesn't mean that Apple's testing and debugging is now less than it used to be, or that a confined development system will have the same issues as an OS which can manipulated at the root level and have countless 3rd-party SW and HW connected.
    edited April 2017 watto_cobraStrangeDays
  • Reply 6 of 31
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,970member
    1) When I did the research and posted this AI killed my post. I wish they would've just removed the names and LinkedIn links from my post and kept the other info when they edited their Scribd file to remove the page with the name of the 5 of 6 un-redacted drivers.

    2) The question still remains if Apple will be making their own automobile or simply creating the architecture and/or HW which others can license and/or buy.
    edited April 2017 watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 31
    External graphics esp non-Apple monitors, problems that don't appear right away and then trying to revert... A simple system would be iMac, MBP or with Apple TB display. It seems related to all the graphics struggles starting with the gauntlet of the lack of Cinema Display support with TB3 despite the TB3 standard, the TB2/TB3 adapter (2 star reviews), the LG monitor fiasco(s), 4K @ 60hz not showing up until 10.12.2, 30hz support that seemed to exist until 10.12.4 for others, now broken, but not universally... The list goes on, unfortunately... It reminds me of the dual link display adapter challenges - complex stuff I'm sure... A simple help would be a system restore, I hate to say but like Windows... The relentless approach of always moving 'forward'? Will this cut it with a vehicle? Imagine blaming a software bug ending up in oncoming traffic ? Remember the Apple Maps roll out ?
    edited April 2017
  • Reply 8 of 31
    georgie01georgie01 Posts: 248member
    I wish Apple would put more energy into fixing their operating system and stop using customers as beta testers. 10.12.4 ruined my weekend (still ongoing)... Suggest upgraders proceed with extreme caution if using more than a most basic mac setup. Plug and Pray seems alive and well, and why the heck does apple make reverting to a prior OS version like the hunt for the Holy Grail ? Could we have at least a single restore point like the dreaded Windows, or prior os download/install options please, or better yet a fundamental choice of OS with new hardware ? User experience when things go wrong = epic fail...

    How will a car drive if the OS has so many issues?

    Although it may not feel this way, especially in today's culture, a person's experience does not necessarily reflect what actually is. I've never had any kind of problem upgrading macOS or installing the latest version in over 10 years on multiple machines. Should I conclude macOS is absolutely rock solid? As frustrating as problems can be, there's no need to draw general conclusions based on one's experience.
    edited April 2017 watto_cobraStrangeDays
  • Reply 9 of 31
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,603member
    I wish Apple would put more energy into fixing their operating system and stop using customers as beta testers. 10.12.4 ruined my weekend (still ongoing)... Suggest upgraders proceed with extreme caution if using more than a most basic mac setup. Plug and Pray seems alive and well, and why the heck does apple make reverting to a prior OS version like the hunt for the Holy Grail ? Could we have at least a single restore point like the dreaded Windows, or prior os download/install options please, or better yet a fundamental choice of OS with new hardware ? User experience when things go wrong = epic fail...

    How will a car drive if the OS has so many issues?

    It is pretty safe to say you are in a very small minority here. Most people experience no issues. Clearly Apple will not put many more resources than they already have allocated to ensuring that you and a handful of other users can upgrade without issues, and therefore the onus is on you to fix this. You may never experience this again but just in case, buy yourself a hard drive and a copy of Carbon Copy Cloner and before you do another update make a carbon copy of your HD. You will loose very little time if everything goes south next time. 
    Soliwatto_cobrafastasleepStrangeDays
  • Reply 10 of 31
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,970member
    External graphics esp non-Apple monitors, problems that don't appear right away and then trying to revert... A simple system would be iMac, MBP or with Apple TB display. It seems related to all the graphics struggles starting with the gauntlet of the lack of Cinema Display support with TB3 despite the TB3 standard, the TB2/TB3 adapter (2 star reviews), the LG monitor fiasco(s), 4K @ 60hz not showing up until 10.12.2, 30hz support that seemed to exist until 10.12.4 for others, now broken, but not universally... The list goes on, unfortunately... Plug, and pray... A simple help would be a system restore, I hate to say but like Windows... The relentless approach of always moving 'forward'? Will this cut it with a vehicle? Imagine blaming a software bug ending up in oncoming traffic ? Remember the Apple Maps roll out ?
    I don't understand how this would be an issue for an automobile. Why would a car have an option for you add a 3rd-party GPU, much less an external one?
    caliwatto_cobraStrangeDays
  • Reply 11 of 31
    ...will the tires and batteries be proprietary and glue installed to ensure top performance, or will there be enough bandwidth to offer choice... When the maps GPS bugs out with a new update, will we be OK, or drive off a bridge closed for repair...? Indeed a mirror drive & dual TM backups are prudent, but even that won't help when problems appear days after new work and apps are in place - even Apple was still working on 10.12.1 & then 10.12.2 just to meet 4k 60hz spec on the 2016 rMBP...? These things can take time of course, but the one way ticket approach has limitations... Efforts & debugging no less than it used to be ? Debugging maybe more with public betas, and yet: http://www.macworld.com/article/3138087/macs/why-2016-is-such-a-terrible-year-for-the-mac.html https://kopitiambot.com/2016/11/13/the-curious-case-of-the-missing-macbook-pro-for-pros-2/ How will cars be debugged? Will the term 'my car crashed' need redefining?
  • Reply 12 of 31
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 2,972member
    ...will the tires and batteries be proprietary and glue installed to ensure top performance, or will there be enough bandwidth to offer choice... When the maps GPS bugs out with a new update, will we be OK, or drive off a bridge closed for repair...? Indeed a mirror drive & dual TM backups are prudent, but even that won't help when problems appear days after new work and apps are in place - even Apple was still working on 10.12.1 & then 10.12.2 just to meet 4k 60hz spec on the 2016 rMBP...? These things can take time of course, but the one way ticket approach has limitations... Efforts & debugging no less than it used to be ? Debugging maybe more with public betas, and yet: http://www.macworld.com/article/3138087/macs/why-2016-is-such-a-terrible-year-for-the-mac.html https://kopitiambot.com/2016/11/13/the-curious-case-of-the-missing-macbook-pro-for-pros-2/ How will cars be debugged? Will the term 'my car crashed' need redefining?
    Yes, Apple's going to release a bunch of murdering death traps that kill millions on the highways because you had problem installing the latest Sierra update.  Apple is building a giant version of Liam that sprays out the pulpy human remains from your car before dismantling it into its disparate highly recyclable parts. Stop your handwringing and accept your fate.
    SoliStrangeDays
  • Reply 13 of 31
    Yes, Apple's going to release a bunch of murdering death traps that kill millions on the highways because you had problem installing the latest Sierra update.  Apple is building a giant version of Liam that sprays out the pulpy human remains from your car before dismantling it into its disparate highly recyclable parts. Stop your handwringing and accept your fate.
    I view it more about design, and an attitude of inflexibility - Apple seems to have even recently acknowledged they turned the Mac Pro into somewhat of an appliance - in windows there seems a really simple feature for updates gone wrong called restore and a way to go back to prior versions that doesn't involve a complete wiping & remigration of an entire drive...

    Ironically there is the often quoted supposed GM press release 'If Microsoft Built Cars' http://www.snopes.com/humor/jokes/autos.asp and it references Apple...
    edited April 2017
  • Reply 14 of 31
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,631member
    ...will the tires and batteries be proprietary and glue installed to ensure top performance, or will there be enough bandwidth to offer choice... When the maps GPS bugs out with a new update, will we be OK, or drive off a bridge closed for repair...? Indeed a mirror drive & dual TM backups are prudent, but even that won't help when problems appear days after new work and apps are in place - even Apple was still working on 10.12.1 & then 10.12.2 just to meet 4k 60hz spec on the 2016 rMBP...? These things can take time of course, but the one way ticket approach has limitations... Efforts & debugging no less than it used to be ? Debugging maybe more with public betas, and yet: http://www.macworld.com/article/3138087/macs/why-2016-is-such-a-terrible-year-for-the-mac.html https://kopitiambot.com/2016/11/13/the-curious-case-of-the-missing-macbook-pro-for-pros-2/ How will cars be debugged? Will the term 'my car crashed' need redefining?

    StrangeDays
  • Reply 15 of 31
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 2,972member
    Yes, Apple's going to release a bunch of murdering death traps that kill millions on the highways because you had problem installing the latest Sierra update.  Apple is building a giant version of Liam that sprays out the pulpy human remains from your car before dismantling it into its disparate highly recyclable parts. Stop your handwringing and accept your fate.
    I view it more about design, and an attitude of inflexibility - Apple seems to have even recently acknowledged they turned the Mac Pro into somewhat of an appliance - in windows there seems a really simple feature for updates gone wrong called restore and a way to go back to prior versions that doesn't involve a complete wiping & remigration of an entire drive...

    Ironically there is the often quoted supposed GM press release 'If Microsoft Built Cars' http://www.snopes.com/humor/jokes/autos.asp and it references Apple...
    No, they acknowledged that they predicted a path towards parallel GPU processing within a certain thermal envelope that they engineered the Mac Pro for, and then found it impossible to work within that design when they realized they needed to do a U turn back to a single high powered GPU and other issues they had boxed themselves in with. The admission of that plus the long-in-advance announcement that they're completely rethinking the platform from the ground up would indicate the opposite of inflexibility, at least to me.

    99% of people never ever need to roll back to prior versions. Those that need to can go through the usual motions which are: Step 1) Clone your bootable backup back to your primary drive. Step 2) There is no Step 2.

    I remember the cars joke from way back when. "Ironically" this is probably more likely to be accurate than was ever imagined : "6. Apple would make a car powered by the sun, reliable, five times as fast, and twice as easy to drive, but would run on only five per cent of the roads."

    I think this airline one is older, I remember it from Usenet circa '93 or so, still funny:
    http://www.zyra.org.uk/os-air.htm


    StrangeDays
  • Reply 16 of 31
    Those that need to can go through the usual motions which are: Step 1) Clone your bootable backup back to your primary drive. Step 2) There is no Step 2.

    Actually exactly my point, as that is really only effective if issues are discovered right away, otherwise one seems into a migration process from a clean install or TM recovery, to retain interstitial data, and do it right (depending on root ID) assuming one has kept the prior installer, which Apple seems to feel isn't worth offering online. I've got some macs that also won't upgrade to the current Safari to 10.1, and there seems no manual download I can find - yet again it seems the Appstore way is the only way, buggy... No mercy.

    The only MacOS I remember that were essentially bug free (for me) were 10.4.11 & Snow, and those ran beyond a couple of years in development, but unsupported on new hardware once updated, essentially forcing buyers to the bleeding edge. Would we want that in a car, or timing purchases late in CarOS development for reliability?

    Indeed the airline one is funny, especially as I don't fly.  Here's a famous Airbus 320 demo flight: 
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kHa3WNerjU

    ...and a linked article on computer assist vs automation approaches Boeing vs Airbus:  
    http://www.aerospaceamerica.org/Documents/Aerospace America PDFs 2015/July-August 2015/AA_Jul-Aug2015_Feature3_BoeingVsAirbus.pdf
    edited April 2017
  • Reply 17 of 31
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,978member

    Project Titan was later transferred to longtime executive Bob Mansfield, who subsequently culled hundreds of employees and refocused the program on self-driving software and supporting hardware. 
    O rly? Where is the Apple press release on this? Oh, you mean that's a rumor of what could have happened, possibly maybe. 
  • Reply 18 of 31
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,978member
    External graphics esp non-Apple monitors, problems that don't appear right away and then trying to revert... A simple system would be iMac, MBP or with Apple TB display. It seems related to all the graphics struggles starting with the gauntlet of the lack of Cinema Display support with TB3 despite the TB3 standard, the TB2/TB3 adapter (2 star reviews), the LG monitor fiasco(s), 4K @ 60hz not showing up until 10.12.2, 30hz support that seemed to exist until 10.12.4 for others, now broken, but not universally... The list goes on, unfortunately... It reminds me of the dual link display adapter challenges - complex stuff I'm sure... A simple help would be a system restore, I hate to say but like Windows... The relentless approach of always moving 'forward'? Will this cut it with a vehicle? Imagine blaming a software bug ending up in oncoming traffic ? Remember the Apple Maps roll out ?
    Again you're comparing a desktop platform, and a mobile app, to a completely different scenario and product. Are you saying Tesla and other auto-makers are incapable of producing bugs in software? How does that work -- what makes them invulnerable to bugs that only Apple could produce, the evidence of which is previous bugs in other products? 

    Your argument doesnt hold water. All software has bugs because software developers aren't perfect and complex systems introduce unexpected circumstances. This is not limited to one brand. 
  • Reply 19 of 31
    Are you saying Tesla and other auto-makers are incapable of producing bugs in software?
    In fact the opposite, and I wish Apple recognized we may need more flexibility to accommodate the inevitable bugs that appear... Autopilot has its limits!
  • Reply 20 of 31
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    I wish Apple would put more energy into fixing their operating system and stop using customers as beta testers. 10.12.4 ruined my weekend (still ongoing)... Suggest upgraders proceed with extreme caution if using more than a most basic mac setup. Plug and Pray seems alive and well, and why the heck does apple make reverting to a prior OS version like the hunt for the Holy Grail ? Could we have at least a single restore point like the dreaded Windows, or prior os download/install options please, or better yet a fundamental choice of OS with new hardware ? User experience when things go wrong = epic fail...

    How will a car drive if the OS has so many issues?

    Using customers as beta testers gets to test more usage paths and usually uncovers more bugs.
    They're not JUST using customer to test software. But, having in the pipeline is important. That's why Apple added them to IOS
    and since them, the number of major bugs has gone done quite a bit.
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