For the past couple of weeks, Apple has been evaluating its autonomous driving software in the San Francisco Bay region. The programmes were installed in three Lexus RX450h SUVs, which have been caught on film in the area. Yesterday, an Apple enthusiast managed to record a short video of one of the driverless cars on 101 North near University Avenue in Palo Alto.
The smart cars are fitted with cameras and sensors attached to the roof and exterior, making them easy to spot. Their navigation is determined via two or more radar screens, a state-of-the-art Velodyne 64-channel lidar and multiple cameras.
Apple managed to obtain a driverless vehicle permit in April and immediately managed to get the cars on the road. The SUVs are controlled by six Apple technicians with specialised knowledge of autonomous vehicles.
The tech giant has been researching its self-driving car technology for the past couple of years. Originally, Apple reportedly sought to launch a vehicle. After that had failed to happen, the company shifted its attention to an autonomous driving software system under development by Bob Mansfield.
According to reports, Apple’s team has until the end of the year to prove that an Apple-developed autonomous driving system is feasible. The project could enable the firm to enter a joint venture with carmakers for something like a very advanced variant of CarPlay, or it might be a feature of a future Apple car should it decide to pursue the project again.
Despite Apple being notoriously tight-lipped about new products, its autonomous vehicle testing will take place in public. In California, firms that partake in the Autonomous Vehicle Testing Program must submit Disengagement Reports showing information such as distance covered and any accidents or incidents. Apple wants the DMV to change these rules, but it is unknown whether the organisation would agree to that.
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