Apple’s self-driving car has been spotted again on a public road, and this new sighting reveals some notable changes from the last time the vehicle was caught on camera, suggesting Apple’s self-driving car tech has possibly undergone another update.
On Wednesday, we saw an unmarked Lexus SUV driving around Sunnyvale, California, near an area that houses many Apple office buildings.
We also saw the vehicle go into the parking lot for a cluster of Apple office buildings at the Sunnyvale Research Center, a complex leased by Apple, before it pulled back out onto the road.
The vehicle featured an array of lidar sensors, cameras and GPS on its roof and rear driver-side wheel, add-ons that are typically found on self-driving vehicles.
Though the car was unmarked, its appearance matches that of other Apple self-driving car sightings. The vehicle had a person behind the wheel as well as someone sitting in the passenger seat.
Previous sightings have shown the puck-shaped lidar and cameras encased in white coverings, but this vehicle doesn’t have anything obscuring these components.
The lidar pucks are also more vertically oriented; previous sightings showed the lidar positioned at an angle. Additionally, this vehicle has three LIDAR total on the rear of the roof rig, down from the six seen previously.
It’s possible Apple simply did away with lidar and camera casings and made some configuration adjustments in this model while keeping the actual technology the same.
Now that word is out that Apple is working on self-driving cars, the company may not feel the need to mask its self-driving car tech any longer.
Apple self-driving car developments
Our sighting comes just over a week after it was revealed Apple now has 55 self-driving cars in its fleet, second most in California behind GM Cruise and ahead of Google’s Waymo, which has 51 self-driving cars under its permit in the Golden State.
Apple’s self-driving car project, codenamed Project Titan, is growing, but it’s what Apple ultimately plans to do with its self-driving car tests that remains a mystery.
While it was thought for some time that Apple would make its own driverless car, CEO Tim Cook confirmed in 2017 that Apple’s interests, at least at the time, were in building the AI systems that power self-driving cars.
As Apple continues to develop its self-driving car tech and put vehicles on the road, the self-driving car landscape is in a state of flux. Some companies are forging ahead with their own self-driving car plans, while others are moving backwards.
It was announced on Wednesday that Uber is shutting down its self-driving car program in Arizona, two months after an Uber self-driving car struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe.
Google’s Waymo, meanwhile, is moving closer to launching a driverless ride-hailing service, and we recently saw the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace that will be part of Waymo’s fleet at this month’s Google IO 2018.
We’ve asked Apple for comment for this story, and will update this article if we hear back.
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