The last days local residents in Silicon Valley noticed an increased activity of Apple Mapp Cars roaming the neighborhoods. Almost daily I encountered the cars that scan the streets with high precision cameras, GPS-systems, and Lidars.
Even today Sunday I saw them several times like in that video from highway 1010 at Mountain View direction North towards San Francisco. The cars seem to to new scans of Palo Alto, Mountain View, and neighboring cities.
Clearly visible are the cameras and four Lidars, which allow to create a 360 degree view of the environment. Already few months ago they could be seen with increased activities. Back then the cars were marked for the first time, and even a link to a website was included that had a schedule for when and where the cars were going. This note has disappeared from the website, a turn back to the secretive ways not unknown to Apple.
Here are two pictures from January 31st, 2016 of such an unmarked car with similar equipment on the roof. I took the picture with the car in a car wash in Mountain View.
After the rumors of Apple building a car and the following that Apple reduced the very same activities, the noticeable increased activity can be either interpreted as purely updating their maps for Apple map, or point to more than just that. Considering the four Lidars on the car this could be an important detail to disclose activities on self-driving technology. Lidar data is considered an important component for technology in driverless cars.
The question remains: how much effort is Apple putting up into getting into the automotive sector?
This article is also available in English.