Apple is reportedly in talks with Lidar makers regarding sensors that could be used for its Apple Car initiative.
A commonly used surveying tool, Lidar measures distances between objects. It works by firing a pulsed laser light, then measuring how long it takes to bounce back. While not exclusively used in self-driving cars, that’s the application the technology is most synonymous with.
A revolutionary Lidar design
According to Reuters, Apple has a “revolutionary design” in mind for these sensors. Cupertino seeks Lidar units that are smaller, cheaper and more easily mass-produced than those currently available.
Current Lidar systems, including the Velodoyne models mounted on Apple’s existing self-driving vehicles, can cost $100,000. Apple’s proposal could cut this down to hundreds, instead of thousands, of dollars.
New hires from Tesla and Alphabet supposedly sparked Apple’s interest in the next-gen sensors, according to the Reuters report:
“[W]hat is clear from Apple’s interest in cheaper Lidar systems is that it wants to control the ‘perception stack’ of sensors, computers and software to drive an autonomous vehicle, regardless of who makes the vehicle, [a] familiar with the talks said. The three people familiar with the talks declined to be identified because the discussions are not public.
In addition to evaluating potential outside suppliers, Apple is believed to have its own internal Lidar sensor under development, two of the people said.”
Unsurprisingly, aesthetics also play a large part in Apple’s vision for this potential Project Titan component. The company envisions a sleek and unobtrusive design that would look good on a consumer vehicle.
At the end of 2017, Apple published a paper detailing how A.I. could be used to help improve accuracy in Lidar technology.