Apple’s self-driving system atop a Lexus RX - Image via MacCallister Higgins
Apple in June finally confirmed it had abandoned plans to develop a self-driving car and would instead focus on the self-driving technology itself.
We would learn in August of some of the motivations behind the decision, one of which was a lack of focus. This pulled the development team in many directions and ultimately led to the downfall of the so-called iCar.
Still falling under the Project Titan heading, Apple’s self-driving program is alive and kicking nevertheless. In fact, thanks to MacCallister Higgins, who runs the startup Voyage which is aiming to develop a self-driving taxi service, we now have a glimpse at Apple’s self-driving developments. He recently posted a short video clip on Twitter of a Lexus RX fitted with Apple’s self-driving system.
Going to need more than 140 characters to go over Project Titan. I call it "The Thing" pic.twitter.com/sLDJd7iYSa— MacCallister Higgins (@macjshiggins) October 17, 2017
You can spot six individual lidar units (the small cylinder-shaped objects) facing out over the rear of the vehicle. Higgins said there were another six up front, making 12 in total. Lidar works by using light to create high-resolution images of the world around a car, which effectively allows a self-driving car to "see." The accuracy of lidar systems is crucial for self-driving cars to operate in the real world.
Higgins also estimates that most of the computing hardware required to process all of the incoming sensor data is located within the roof unit, as opposed to elsewhere in the vehicle. This type of self-contained design would make it relatively straight forward to swap the system between various test vehicles.
As development continues, we’re sure the physical size of the system will shrink. And as Tech Crunch points out, the self-driving system could eventually become an aftermarket product that could attach to virtually any modern car. We could also see Apple license the technology to established automakers to integrate with their cars at the factory.