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High-res photos reveal mysterious Apple van's equipment package

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A pair of high-resolution photographs acquired by AppleInsider on Wednesday show close-up views of a van thought to be part of a secret Apple initiative, including a highly detailed look at what are believed to be GPS, camera and other roof-mounted instrumentation.

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The photos, sent in by AppleInsider reader Jason, were captured in a parking lot in Richmond, Calif., an area located at the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area and just a few miles north of Apple's campus in Cupertino.

Like other vans attributed to Apple's secret program, the vehicle caught on camera appears to be a stock Dodge Caravan with California license plates and an unusual array of equipment mounted to its roof. A report earlier in February hypothesized that the array includes at least six cameras, dual LiDAR sensors, a pair of GPS antennas and a wheel encoder.

As noted previously, the technology package suggests Apple is working on an advanced mapping initiative similar to Google's Street View, not a self-driving electric vehicle.

Today's images are just the latest in a quickly growing pile of photographic and video evidence surrounding Apple's mysterious project. On Monday, AppleInsider received a short video showing one of the minivans at work on the road. In the clip, a two-man crew can be seen operating the testbed, one piloting the car while the other interacts with a small tablet or phablet.

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Apple has yet to comment on the matter, but early speculation pointed to autonomous vehicles and an electric car product. A more reasonable explanation, however, is that Apple is working to expand its in-house mapping technology with street level imaging.

The first of Apple's vans were first spotted in the San Francisco Bay Area earlier this month, with subsequent sightings in New York, Hawaii, Wisconsin and Panama.