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Apple has held talks with at least four potential suppliers of LiDAR sensors for self-driving vehicles, providing fresh evidence of the company's renewed ambitions to enter the autonomous vehicle space, according to Reuters.

applelexusselfdriving1-800x521.jpg
Apple has been using Lexus SUVs with LiDAR equipment to test autonomous technologies

The report claims Apple is seeking LiDAR units that are "smaller, cheaper and more easily mass produced" than current systems, which can cost over $100,000 and are considered "too bulky and prone to failure" for use in mass-produced vehicles. Apple is said to be "setting a high bar" with demands for a "revolutionary design."

While it remains unclear whether the goal of Apple's so-called "Project Titan" is to build its own vehicle or supply self-driving hardware and software to other automakers, the report says Apple wants to control the "perception stack" of sensors and software for autonomous vehicles, regardless of who makes it.

In addition to evaluating potential outside suppliers, Apple is believed to have its own LiDAR sensor technology under development, the report adds.

The report claims the next-generation LiDAR sensor designs that Apple is seeking could potentially be made with semiconductor manufacturing techniques, potentially significantly lowering costs, but the sources cited say Apple has not been happy with most of what it has seen so far.

Last year, Apple rehired its former VP of Mac hardware engineering Doug Field to work on Project Titan after a five-year stint as Tesla's engineering chief. Apple has a team of about 1,200 employees working on the project, according to court documents, but recent restructuring led to 190 layoffs.

Apple has been testing and developing autonomous driving software out on the streets of Cupertino, California, using Lexus SUVs, since early 2017. It's still unclear if we'll ever see a so-called Apple Car, but analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes a release wouldn't be until 2023 to 2025 either way.

Article Link: Apple Reportedly Seeking LiDAR Sensors With 'Revolutionary Design' for Self-Driving Vehicles
 

Sasparilla

macrumors 68000
Jul 6, 2012
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Seems the entire auto industry, except Tesla, has (for years now) hinged their future of auto driving to LiDAR sensors which are having trouble getting from physically spinning devices over to cheap solid state sensors. Tesla uses a combination of visual cameras and radar sensors.
 
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MozMan68

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Right here...
Isn't a more logical conclusion that they are doing this for purely the software side of things?

They are already using it for Maps.

For all the crap (rightly so) Maps got when it was launched, Apple has been using this tech for all mapping over the past 5 years. Every self driving company out there will pay a fortune if they can figure out a way to get LIDAR data from more vehicles. I always imagined Apple partnering with FedEx, UPS, or USPS in the US to equip their vehicles with LIDAR data gathering to keep Maps up to date as well as create the most complete self-driving software out there.

This will only help FedEx/UPS move into automated delivery vehicles.
 
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kingtj

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Yep! I was going to say this exact thing until I saw you already posted about it.

The interesting thing for Tesla is, by going the route they've gone, they're either going to remain on top with self-driving capabilities, OR they're "betting it all" on the wrong horse.

From what I've observed on the Tesla side, so far? They have some real challenges with using radar, because it picks up a lot of false reflections and "noise". (You commonly see reports from Tesla owners about their car suddenly "phantom braking" while driving along on the interstate. Often, this happens as a big semi truck is passing you in the lane beside you. The car seems to pick up some false radar data that makes it think the truck is about to cross in front of you.)

I know at least with the older "Autopilot version 1" on a Tesla, even the lines it draws on the dash to indicate how close you are to a curb or other nearby object will kind of "jump around". You can be pulled up just behind a vehicle at a stoplight, with nobody moving, and it may drift back and forth, indicating several inches of movement. Or as you're slowly pulling in to your garage to park and you watch it count down the number of inches of space between you and the front garage wall? It isn't perfectly linear. It gives good info, but clearly hops around a bit.


Seems the entire auto industry, except Tesla, has (for years now) hinged their future of auto driving to LiDAR sensors which are having trouble getting over to cheap solid state sensors. Tesla uses a combination of visual cameras and radar sensors.
 
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69Mustang

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Isn't a more logical conclusion that they are doing this for purely the software side of things?
Not really. The goal for almost all of the companies interested in autonomous driving is to get the LiDAR units smaller and cheaper. Different solid state solutions are what they're all working on right now.

They are already using it for Maps.
Afaik, the LiDAR units piggybacking on the Mapping Vehicles were doing just that; piggybacking. Getting data relevant for autonomous driving. The LiDAR wasn't used for Map, per se.

Every self driving company out there will pay a fortune if they can figure out a way to get LIDAR data from more vehicles.
They wouldn't do that. The data isn't generic and transferable. The systems are proprietary and you can't just plug in generic data. If Apple is building an autonomous system instead of a vehicle, a company would need to adopt the actual system. I personally think this is what Apple is doing: systems.

This will only help FedEx/UPS move into automated delivery vehicles.
I'd guess FedEx or UPS would use something like Embark. They'd have to work around the unions first though. It's rumored that Amazon already uses Embark.
 
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centauratlas

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Will it be Intel or Qualcomm that is developing it? lol, jk of course.

LiDAR is a good tech in other areas, if it can be cheap and reliable enough (with good software) it will be great here. The car has to be many orders of magnitude more reliable than iOS or macOS given there are lives at stake. My concern here is whether Apple - and all of the other manufacturers - has the quality control in place to delivery it. Something crashes or is buggy on the iPhone or Mac? Not a huge deal since you aren't traveling at 70 mph down the road.
 
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ArtOfWarfare

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Nov 26, 2007
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Seems the entire auto industry, except Tesla, has (for years now) hinged their future of auto driving to LiDAR sensors which are having trouble getting over to cheap solid state sensors. Tesla uses a combination of visual cameras and radar sensors.

LiDAR seems a lot like hydrogen fuel cells - it's smoke and mirrors being thrown up by companies that are lagging behind. Make it sound like you're not lagging behind by saying that you're trying to go do something else.

The premise that LiDAR is necessary to drive a vehicle is so obviously BS. Humans have been driving vehicles well enough for over 100 years with nothing more than two cameras. Humans can drive vehicles remotely with nothing but cameras. Having LiDAR can certainly assist with driving a vehicle, just as radar and sonar can, but it's obviously not required despite every company that isn't Tesla (or Comma AI) insisting that it is.
 
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MozMan68

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Not really. The goal for almost all of the companies interested in autonomous driving is to get the LiDAR units smaller and cheaper. Different solid state solutions are what they're all working on right now.


The LiDAR wasn't used for Map, per se.


They wouldn't do that. The data isn't generic and transferable. The systems are proprietary and you can't just plug in generic data. If Apple is building an autonomous system instead of a vehicle, a company would need to adopt the actual system. I personally think this is what Apple is doing: systems.


I'd guess FedEx or UPS would use something like Embark. They'd have to work around the unions first though. It's rumored that Amazon already uses Embark.


Sorry if I wasn't clear...yes...they want the units smaller, but so they can be implemented on other vehicles versus a dedicated Apple Maps Van.

Yes, LIDAR is being used for Maps. One of Apple Maps key advantages is/will be its ability to provide an accurate and immersive 3D environment. People want "StreetView" on Maps. They will get it, but where Google only povides a "picture" in StreetView, Maps will be providing a 3D view from 10,000 feet (Flyover), seamlessly down to street level, and then seamlessly into indoor environments (like Malls, museums, etc. where they have experimented). LIDAR allows that where "pictures" do not.

Their biggest issue then (as in all mapping software) is to provide up to date "images". Smaller LIDAR units allows other 3rd party vehicles to augment the fleet of Apple Maps vans driving around the country and the world.

With Apple providing this realistic and up-to-date data to help augment vehicle systems, the demand for their version of 3D mapping software will grow so that companies such as the ones I listed will come to them, not the other way around. Saying the "data isn't transferable" only speaks to present state. There are always a ton of companies when tech starts like this...very fragmented...and then there are one or two that emerge. Seems that Apple is betting on this tech and Maps is just the start.

It's nearly impossible to believe after such a horrendous start, but Apple has invested into the Maps project in a big way AND with the correct tech to make it the go-to mapping solution...yes, not tomorrow, but in the long run. We in the USA get the benefits now or very soon, so I fully expect a rash of responses to my thread from all the naysayers that love to bash on Maps, particularly those from other countries. ;)
 
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69Mustang

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Sorry if I wasn't clear...yes...they want the units smaller, but so they can be implemented on other vehicles versus a dedicated Apple Maps Van.

Yes, LIDAR is being used for Maps. One of Apple Maps key advantages is/will be its ability to provide an accurate and immersive 3D environment. People want "StreetView" on Maps. They will get it, but where Google only povides a "picture" in StreetView, Maps will be providing a 3D view from 10,000 feet (Flyover), seamlessly down to street level, and then seamlessly into indoor environments (like Malls, museums, etc. where they have experimented). LIDAR allows that where "pictures" do not.

Their biggest issue then (as in all mapping software) is to provide up to date "images". Smaller LIDAR units allows other 3rd party vehicles to augment the fleet of Apple Maps vans driving around the country and the world.

With Apple providing this realistic and up-to-date data to help augment vehicle systems, the demand for their version of 3D mapping software will grow so that companies such as the ones I listed will come to them, not the other way around. Saying the "data isn't transferable" only speaks to present state. There are always a ton of companies when tech starts like this...very fragmented...and then there are one or two that emerge. Seems that Apple is betting on this tech and Maps is just the start.

It's nearly impossible to believe after such a horrendous start, but Apple has invested into the Maps project in a big way AND with the correct tech to make it the go-to mapping solution...yes, not tomorrow, but in the long run. We in the USA get the benefits now or very soon, so I fully expect a rash of responses to my thread from all the naysayers that love to bash on Maps, particularly those from other countries. ;)
Sounds like your focus is Maps, not autonomous driving. I don't use Maps so I really have no thoughts on it. As for naysayers and bashers, if they have legitimate criticisms, it ain't really bashing... especially if Maps is particularly deficient in other countries.;)

Either way, I think Apple is looking to build systems in the same vein as Embark.
 
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gsmornot

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I don't know what Apple wants in the car business but this might be a good time to think about buying someone else to move forward more quickly. With the purchase of Tesla, they would provide the financial backing Tesla needs to continue. They would want to remain hands off for a few years to allow the company to continue as is but partner on technology to learn and at some point combine. Shareholders should ask that Tesla focus on quality and on getting full autonomy to the existing fleet sooner than later, they are already delayed to the point some original buyers are ready to trade cars without ever using the feature they paid for. Some of the early buyers paid 2 years ago. In this bracket of cars, many owners are ready for another new car.
 
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TheShadowKnows!

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My bet is on the Germans to get it right.
And they see Apple as the barbarians at the gate.

[If today is a sample of skills, analog domain processing is not where Apple shines. And, neither is AI.]
 
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MozMan68

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Right here...
Sounds like your focus is Maps, not autonomous driving. I don't use Maps so I really have no thoughts on it. As for naysayers and bashers, if they have legitimate criticisms, it ain't really bashing... especially if Maps is particularly deficient in other countries.;)

Either way, I think Apple is looking to build systems in the same vein as Embark.

Hah...yes...I am a maps geek, but I believe that they are intrinsically linked. While Maps is more of a consumer product designed to drive more hardware sales, it seems clear that Apple is using it as a stepping stone to much bigger things including being the leader in support for self-driving vehicles.

Google should be given ALL of the credit for realizing so early on how important mapping software was gathering data from users, but Apple has invested in better technology to take it to the next level. It's a product battle that will only benefit all of us. I just choose Maps as I prefer the UI and because I live in the USA, I have not had to experience most downsides as folks in other countries. And for those that haven't tried it in a while, you should.

I compare all three major mapping systems regularly as I travel all over the country and have found Maps to work as well if not better than Google and Waze. Even POI's are catching up or, in some instances for me, more updated in Maps than even Google (very rare though still).

Submit a correction to a POI and it is typically updated in 24-48 hours. Street info, not so much yet as they have not implemented their own data in most areas.

Follow our new Maps discussion HERE if you like...I think most of us try to be as fair and open-minded as possible.
 
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rmsanger

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Jul 23, 2014
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This is a 90% software 10% hardware challenge... Not sure that autos are that great on the former given the states of infotainment implementations.
 
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MozMan68

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Right here...
I don't know what Apple wants in the car business but this might be a good time to think about buying someone else to move forward more quickly. With the purchase of Tesla, they would provide the financial backing Tesla needs to continue. They would want to remain hands off for a few years to allow the company to continue as is but partner on technology to learn and at some point combine. Shareholders should ask that Tesla focus on quality and on getting full autonomy to the existing fleet sooner than later, they are already delayed to the point some original buyers are ready to trade cars without ever using the feature they paid for. Some of the early buyers paid 2 years ago. In this bracket of cars, many owners are ready for another new car.

Elon Musk would need to remain for Tesla to truly be successful IMHO...and he and Apple definitely would not mix. Whole thing would implode within a year.
 
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djlythium

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"We were able to take this big, bulky, ugly sensor and shrink it down to a tenth of the size while keeping all of the function...making LIDAR elegant and seamless to the vehicle..."
Haha! I hella read that in his voice, also!
 
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Jerus

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Jan 13, 2017
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I don't know what Apple wants in the car business but this might be a good time to think about buying someone else to move forward more quickly. With the purchase of Tesla, they would provide the financial backing Tesla needs to continue.

Have they ever confirmed that project Titan really is a car? Don’t they use words like propulsion vehicle, and then we all assume that it’s a car?

Tesla would not work as part of another company. They need Elon Musk and people like him does not fit well when they are not in charge. Just see how he behaves agains investors. He needs to lead and have visions.

Interesting to think what would happen if Tim and Elon swapped jobs.
Tesla would get their **** together and Apple would release some new crazy stuff.
 
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