Apple made a big update to the design of the sensor array that powers the autonomous functions on its self-driving fleet of cars.
Some eagle-eyed observers in the Cupertino area spotted the new array a couple of times over the last month or so. Instead of having LiDAR and camera sensors mounted on a rack around the car, Apple’s gearheads created a system that’s entirely enclosed. And it looks like they’ve ditched LiDAR in the process.
Watch Apple’s whip drive down the streets of Cupertino.
Photos of the new array first showed up on The Last Driver License Holder blog, which follows various companies’ self-driving car projects.
Apple’s self-driving car gets new sensor array
It’s hard to tell how many sensors there are in the new array. Apple’s previous sensor array used a mixture of cameras, radar and LiDAR. This one could be all cameras, though. (Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently said his company will go with a cameras-only approach to its self-driving technology because of the limitations of LiDAR.)
This is the third major design change we’ve seen to Apple’s car sensor array. The first one looked very rudimentary and added considerable height to the vehicles. Apple’s second design enclosed many of the sensors into a roof-mounted rack. This third design is by far the best-looking and most Apple-esque. Just imagine it much thinner, obviously.
We don’t know if the new sensor design will completely replace the old version. Maybe Apple is simply testing the feasibility of using nothing but cameras.
Apple’s self-driving car project, known as Project Titan, hit a number of speed bumps in the last few years. The company supposedly went from planning to build its own car to just working on the foundations of a self-driving system.
Apple CEO Tim Cook keeps quiet about Apple’s automotive ambitions, although he said the company views self-driving cars as the mother of all AI problems.