Apple Car reportedly shopping for the eyes of its autonomous driving——-Apple’s autonomous car project is hunting for a well-rumoured EV eye, a new report suggests, with the iPhone maker said to be in discussions with some LIDAR specialists. Scanning technology is wide – though not universally – believed to be the key to building self-driving vehicles, given their ability to map environments, in real-time, and in great detail.
See also: iPhone 12 Pro Max
Several companies are currently developing LIDAR sensors, for automotive and robotics use, among other purposes. Apple has also used the same core premise of technology for its own custom sensors, called the LiDAR Scanner that launched on the iPad Pro and later appeared in the high-end iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Now, Apple is currently in talks with several sensor companies, Bloomberg reported, citing insiders with knowledge of the negotiations. Talks are still ongoing, it is suggested, and Apple is believed to have yet to select a possible LIDAR candidate. Whichever hardware device is chosen, it should be compatible with the custom software that the Apple Project Titan EV project has been working on over the last few years.
Apple reportedly wants to acquire Drive.ai startup to fulfil the company’s ambition to expand into the self-driving vehicle business.
———————–What is LIDAR?——————–
LIDAR, or “light detection and range”, relies on a 3D laser scanning system. The laser pulse is sent out, and then its reflection is measured: by calculating the time it will take for it to occur, the distance of any object it reflects can be calculated. The LIDAR scanners shift their array to construct a so-called point cloud from the measurement, from which the 3D topography of a scene can be constructed.
This technology has the advantage of having a fairly large range compared to other sensors, and – depending on reliable light – it can still operate even in the rain, fog or other adverse conditions. The disadvantages of traditional LIDAR are cost and practicality. Initial “spinning bucket” scanners could cost about the same as luxury cars each, were bulky, and had moving parts making them vulnerable to potential damage.
More recent developments, notably solid-state LiDAR, have attempted to address the issue. Rather than a fully rotating array, the smaller solid-state sensor uses a micromirror to adjust the spread of the transmitter. It also makes them smaller and helps contribute to lower prices. As such, it would be more practical to equip the vehicle with several smaller LIDAR scanners than one large example, which also helps streamline its presence in the overall design of the car.
—————–Is LIDAR necessary for autonomous cars?————-
The fact that Apple’s car project will use the LiDAR system is no big surprise. Most of the self-driving vehicles being developed include laser scanning technology between their various sensors; indeed, it is quicker to name projects that do not depend on LIDAR to some extent. Tesla’s Elon Musk is perhaps the most outspoken critic, maintaining that the existing EV, ultrasonic, and array of radar-based sensors can provide sufficient scanning performance for Level 4 and Level 5 autonomy.
Most of the other automakers, and projects, working on self-driving cars have at least one LIDAR sensor, and usually several. Falling technology costs have also made it into production vehicles as sensors for Level 2 and Level 3 advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) . Volvo, for example, plans to equip its upcoming SPA 2 platform for future vehicles with Luminar LIDAR, after first invested in a sensor company in 2018.