Apple is talking to at least four companies that could supply it with next-generation LiDar sensors for self-driving cars. The move will help Apple work on its own LiDAR technology while also evaluate offerings from others.
As per the Reuters report, Apple is looking for “smaller, cheaper and more easily mass produced” LiDAR units compared to the existing versions found in the market. It is looking for a “revolutionary design” and setting a very high bar with its set of demands.
Apple is currently using LiDAR sensors from Velodyne Inc and other vendors on its existing fleet of autonomous vehicles. These units, however, are extremely expensive at $100,000, bulky, and the inclusion of mechanical moving parts means they are bound to fail sooner than later.
“They’re not happy with most of what they see,” the first person familiar with the matter said. “They’re looking for a revolutionary design.”
This move might just signal Apple’s renewed efforts into entering the self-driving vehicle market again. The company’s ambitious Project Titan self-driving vehicle division was greatly scaled down after some hiccups. As per reports, Apple then started focusing on the tech behind the self-driving car rather than developing the entire autonomous vehicle.
The design sought after by Apple could be made using the conventional semiconductor manufacturing methods which could translate into thousands of hundreds of dollars in savings when these sensors are mass produced.
Apart from seeking “revolutionary” LiDAR units from third-party vendors, Apple is also working on its own LiDAR tech. The progress on it, however, remains unknown for now.
Apple has been hiring a number of key executives from major car makers like Tesla for its Project Titan division. The company has around 1,000 employees in the team now working on its autonomous vehicle tech.
Major tech companies like Google’s Waymo, Apple, Uber, and others see autonomous vehicles as the future which is why they are heavily investing in them. While some are working on developing entire autonomous vehicles by themselves, others are working on developing the tech behind it. However, we are still a few years away from seeing anything fruitful in this regard from Apple or just about any other car/tech company other than Tesla.