Apple reportedly upgrades self-driving testbed with new LiDAR equipment, more

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A report on Friday claims an updated version of Apple's self-driving testbed has been seen driving on Silicon Valley roads, topped with a massive LiDAR array with integrated cameras, GPS and other equipment.




Spotted by a MacRumors reader, the vehicle is regularly seen parked outside of an Apple office in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Judging by the photos provided, the building in question appears to be part of Apple's "Project Titan" facility. AppleInsider in 2015 uncovered the location of tech giant's self-driving car initiative, where employees worked on everything from hardware engineering to software development.

The vehicle seen in today's photoset is a 2016-2017 Lexus RX450h, a newer version of the SUV Apple has been using as part of its Autonomous Vehicle Tester (AVT) Program.

In April, the company filed for, and was granted, a license to operate three 2015 Lexus RX450h SUVs for autonomous testing. Those cars were subsequently seen driving in Silicon Valley.

Sitting atop the new SUVs is a highly advanced integrated sensor array that appears to be a next-generation version of equipment deployed on the original testbed. Instead of mounting LiDAR, GPS and radar hardware in separate locations, the new rig integrates necessary equipment into a relatively compact roof-mounted package.

Though it is difficult to identify each component in the custom built housing, it appears Apple is using Velodyne's new Puck LiDAR sensor, a 16-channel unit capable of logging 300,000 points per second at a range of 100 meters. There seems to be 14 Pucks mounted around the car, four facing forward, two behind and two each at the corners.




Camera lenses can also be seen in housings attached to the specialized roof rack, as well as a GPS antenna and radio communications equipment. Separated from the central sensor array are five yellow-capped sensors that could be compact radar arrays. Apple's older testbed featured radar sensors mounted at all four corners. Finally, a distance measuring apparatus similar to a surveyor's wheel is seen mounted to the SUV's left rear wheel.

Apple's autonomous vehicle program is a continuation of efforts to build a branded self-driving car under the "Project Titan" initiative. At one point, Apple had over 1,000 employees working on various projects, but the effort hit a number of snags and was ultimately put on ice in late 2016.

Initially led by former Apple executive Steve Zadesky, Project Titan was handed over to SVP of Hardware Engineering Dan Riccio and then to longtime executive Bob Mansfield. Under Mansfield, the team was whittled down and efforts refocused to self-driving software and supporting hardware.

A report earlier this week claims Apple plans to put its self-driving technology on the road as part of an experimental autonomous shuttle. Dubbed the Palo Alto to Infinite Loop, or PAIL, the service will ferry Apple employees between the company's Silicon Valley campuses.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,095member
    "...the new rig integrates necessary equipment into a relatively compact roof-mounted package"
     
    Relatively compact compared to what? LOL!!

     Kidding of course but that's pretty massive still. 

    repressthisjony0baconstangbeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 2 of 22
    Not as obtrusive as some of the earlier units I've seen on other LIDAR-equipped vehicles scanning in my area, but still a bit of a monster.
    repressthisjony0
  • Reply 3 of 22
    Curious to see what vehicle they will choose for shuttle. Closed loop a great idea for testing. Also good that all guinea pig riders are Apple employees--less liability. 
    cornchiprepressthis
  • Reply 4 of 22
    saniatsaniat Posts: 10member
    What about the danger to passersby of the laser guidance system. This is a real issue. LIDR cannot simply be assumed to be "safe". We do not need a nation of vision impaire, inlicted by unregulated new technology. 
    repressthis
  • Reply 5 of 22
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,095member
    saniat said:
    What about the danger to passersby of the laser guidance system. This is a real issue. LIDR cannot simply be assumed to be "safe". We do not need a nation of vision impaire, inlicted by unregulated new technology. 
    Harmless to your eyes. These use Class1 lasers.
    http://velodynelidar.com/blog/laser-safety-lidar-world/
    edited August 2017 repressthisSpamSandwichbaconstangchialolliver
  • Reply 6 of 22
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    funny how supposedly Apple is "not" doing cars....
  • Reply 7 of 22
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,396member
    saniat said:
    What about the danger to passersby of the laser guidance system. This is a real issue. LIDR cannot simply be assumed to be "safe". We do not need a nation of vision impaire, inlicted by unregulated new technology. 
    These aren't visible light lasers.
    bradford_kirby
  • Reply 8 of 22
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,763member
    gatorguy said:
    "...the new rig integrates necessary equipment into a relatively compact roof-mounted package"
     
    Relatively compact compared to what? LOL!!

     Kidding of course but that's pretty massive still. 
    You forgot to mention the smaller, sexier unit used by Google. 
  • Reply 9 of 22
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,763member
    foggyhill said:
    funny how supposedly Apple is "not" doing cars....
    Well, they're doing something. :-/

    Would love to know what their endgame is, but I'm still thinking they're looking at renting driverless rides rather than selling cars. 

    And and as an aside:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41038220

    This is is the wrong way to do it. 
  • Reply 10 of 22
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    Rayz2016 said:
    foggyhill said:
    funny how supposedly Apple is "not" doing cars....
    Well, they're doing something. :-/

    Would love to know what their endgame is, but I'm still thinking they're looking at renting driverless rides rather than selling cars. 

    And and as an aside:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41038220

    This is is the wrong way to do it. 
    Yes, the huge Didi investment  makes no sense otherwise. That's not even for the purchase of anything, just basically access to data!
    In the last 15 years, only the Beat Purchase is higher I believe.
     A lot of so called analysts will be blind sighted as usual when it all hits.
  • Reply 11 of 22
    saniat said:
    What about the danger to passersby of the laser guidance system. This is a real issue. LIDR cannot simply be assumed to be "safe". We do not need a nation of vision impaire, inlicted by unregulated new technology. 
    These aren't visible light lasers.

    Curious to see what vehicle they will choose for shuttle. Closed loop a great idea for testing. Also good that all guinea pig riders are Apple employees--less liability. 
    And also a nod to the smart efforts of Mountain Views success. Without question- Googles effort both its current state and the road they took to get there was the most conservative but ultimately consumer facing in just "miles logged." 

    -giant campus requiring multiple shuttles
    -potential Designation as POI for Apple Park drawing tourists and curiosity (circa Monorail in the 50s at Disneyland)
    -large vehicle that hides this sensor array 
    -conscripted employee use 
    -quick mileage gain and word of mouth (provides its successful)
    -great marketing tool not bound to a car company

    Ultimately I believe that Apple has no choice but to build a branded car - whether it is buyable or shareable is the actual internal debate. To build a car on the scale - say Didi might require would require the aqusistion of an already successful car builder - the Foxconn of automobiles - Commonwealth for example or Bosch - a car parts business... My guess is they probably wanted to aquire someone like Maclaren but realized the timeline and scale and autonomous experimentation weren't working in concert. Before the iPod was something everyone had and Apple was innovating in the dessert with pink plastic iMacs and transitioning towards Flash iPods (2005?) they partnered with a company called Honhai and in two years had cornered the worlds supply of Flash memory until Toshiba caught up and got wise to the business available... 

    Apple will follow this same playbook. Slow and steady wins the race. The Car adventure will run its own iOS, ARkit and the devs embrace of it will be foundational and the silicon will be designed in house.

    This doesn't happen in 2020 but there were 4 iPhones before Verizon and 2 before an App Store... 

    its gonna take take a minute but they are by no means behind. 

    Waymo will make mistakes (why oh why Fiat...) because it's new and Apple will then Avoid those mistakes developing their own solutions before they become consumer facing. Just like Lyft has done to Uber... only without the stupid drama.

    Tesla built a super car to build an SUV to pay for a sedan... Maclaren builds 200 custom built Super car that would require retooling but wouldn't be bound to the brand. And they're the hottest cars in the world.

    Lastly as the owner of a semi autonomous SUV I must tell you, the future of these cars simply isn't compatible with the old Dealership model - people will need long term acceptance before they sell them off a lot to say nothing of the wide variance between The car companies say the difference between Acurawatch or idrive or the Ford parking system  light years ahead of even Toyota who's had a parking system since the early 2000's

    there are wildly different semis out there already some conservative some are very ambitious it's just an unknown at this point. Autopilot just isn't the whole story. But Super Cruise might be... 

    it will take a serious conversation with both the American public and the media that reports on every single dramatic death that happens because of the cars will crash and that's the point the cars are going to crash and kill people but they will save lives long-term because you know 100 people die every day in a Ford or Chevy and two people die in a Tesla and it makes the news for two weeks

    So that would have to stop and that's not gonna happen in 2020

    Americans are stupid, the demographic wealthy enough to afford vehicles over 50k is ancient and filled with fear, and a bunch of grandpas are gonna die in Model 3s and let's let Teslas Brand take the hit instead of Apple.

    the tortoise and the hare.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 22
    Taxi drivers must be laughing their asses off.  If that's the "latest and greatest" then their jobs are secure for a long LONG time.

    I can see 'driver assist' setups like Tesla working out. I.e. Keeping a car between the lines on a freeway on a clear day / accident avoidance etc. But obviously the technology has a long way to go before becoming mainstream.

    No wonder Apple doesn't publicize their efforts...

    It sounds like all the auto companies are working on adding Tesla like features to their future autos.  Who would buy Apple's version?

    I can see Googles motivation but I don't get Apple's, unless they want to completely rework their business model...
  • Reply 13 of 22
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,095member
    Rayz2016 said:
    gatorguy said:
    "...the new rig integrates necessary equipment into a relatively compact roof-mounted package"
     
    Relatively compact compared to what? LOL!!

     Kidding of course but that's pretty massive still. 
    You forgot to mention the smaller, sexier unit used by Google. 
    Why would I bring Google up when somebody here who's a die-hard Apple fan will do it. They almost always do. I'm rarely, almost never, the one to introduce Google into a discussion that doesn't involve them.

     Some folks here just like to make believe they're not the ones that are fixated on them, bringing them up when there's no need to. Validation I suppose :)
    edited August 2017
  • Reply 14 of 22
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,300member
    gatorguy said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    gatorguy said:
    "...the new rig integrates necessary equipment into a relatively compact roof-mounted package"
     
    Relatively compact compared to what? LOL!!

     Kidding of course but that's pretty massive still. 
    You forgot to mention the smaller, sexier unit used by Google. 
    Why would I bring Google up when somebody here who's a die-hard Apple fan will do it. They almost always do. I'm rarely, almost never, the one to introduce Google into a discussion that doesn't involve them.

     Some folks here just like to make believe they're not the ones that are fixated on them, bringing them up when there's no need to. Validation I suppose :)
    You shouldn't even be here. This is an Apple centric forum and all you contribute is FUD, annoyance, and half-truths. You know your reputation here as well as anybody.
    ericthehalfbeewatto_cobralolliver
  • Reply 15 of 22
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,095member
    lkrupp said:
    gatorguy said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    gatorguy said:
    "...the new rig integrates necessary equipment into a relatively compact roof-mounted package"
     
    Relatively compact compared to what? LOL!!

     Kidding of course but that's pretty massive still. 
    You forgot to mention the smaller, sexier unit used by Google. 
    Why would I bring Google up when somebody here who's a die-hard Apple fan will do it. They almost always do. I'm rarely, almost never, the one to introduce Google into a discussion that doesn't involve them.

     Some folks here just like to make believe they're not the ones that are fixated on them, bringing them up when there's no need to. Validation I suppose :)
    You shouldn't even be here. This is an Apple centric forum and all you contribute is FUD, annoyance, and half-truths. You know your reputation here as well as anybody.
    I don't recall you putting on such a display of egregious trolling here before so IMO either
    A ) There's a joke in there that I'm missing or
    B ) You've had a particularly bad day/week and simply venting at an online target rather than taking it out on anyone you know.

    edited August 2017
  • Reply 16 of 22
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,848member
    The most interesting thing is using a Lexus, which doesn't even have CarPlay.
    Clearly they are doing research for autonomous driving. Hope it doesn't roll out like flyover or public transit in Apple maps. 
    edited August 2017
  • Reply 17 of 22
    saniat said:
    What about the danger to passersby of the laser guidance system. This is a real issue. LIDR cannot simply be assumed to be "safe". We do not need a nation of vision impaire, inlicted by unregulated new technology. 
    That's why the four short-range radar units—front, rear, left and right—for supplemental 'light in my eyes' redundancy.
    LIDAR plus RADAR and possibly SONAR technologies working together.
  • Reply 18 of 22
    saniat said:
    What about the danger to passersby of the laser guidance system. This is a real issue. LIDR cannot simply be assumed to be "safe". We do not need a nation of vision impaire, inlicted by unregulated new technology. 
    These aren't visible light lasers.
    A Laser doesn't have to be visible to be dangerous.  CO2 Lasers are not visible, yet can cut through metal.   If anything, an invisible beam is way more dangerous.
    edited August 2017
  • Reply 19 of 22
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,454member
    saniat said:
    What about the danger to passersby of the laser guidance system. This is a real issue. LIDR cannot simply be assumed to be "safe". We do not need a nation of vision impaire, inlicted by unregulated new technology. 
    These aren't visible light lasers.
    A Laser doesn't have to be visible to be dangerous.  CO2 Lasers are not visible, yet can cut through metal.   If anything, an invisible beam is way more dangerous.
    Even a far less powerful IR laser can easily blind some temporarily or permanently.

    The key is very low power laser emitters with highly sensitive 'receiving' sensors, combined with a moving vehicle.
  • Reply 20 of 22
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,454member


    Americans are stupid, the demographic wealthy enough to afford vehicles over 50k is ancient and filled with fear, and a bunch of grandpas are gonna die in Model 3s and let's let Teslas Brand take the hit instead of Apple.

    the tortoise and the hare.
    Another Xenophobic troll, be it self-loaethig or otherwise.
    lolliver
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