Apple talking to multiple LiDAR suppliers for self-driving car tech
Apple is reportedly in active talks with multiple LiDAR sensor suppliers, a key technology in the development of its self-driving "Apple Car."
The Cupertino tech giant is currently in discussions with "a number of potential suppliers" for the laser-based sensors, which could allow an autonomous vehicle to see its surroundings, Bloomberg reports.
These talks are a sign that Apple has yet to settle on a single supplier. Bloomberg indicates that the company is still considering various options for its LIDAR technology, including what could end up as a heavily customized version of the sensor suite.
As with the iPhone supply chain, Apple will tap third-party vendors to supply critical components for the "Apple Car." The fact that it hasn't settled on a LIDAR supplier may be an indication that an Apple self-driving vehicle is still years away.
Sources told Bloomberg that Apple is looking at obtaining LIDAR technology that would be considered cutting edge four to five years from now. That's another indication of the company's planned release timeline for autonomous vehicle technology.
The company was said to be in similar discussions with LIDAR manufacturers back in 2019. Since then, however, the company's car project has shifted direction and scope.
Apple has publicly documented some of its research into LIDAR and machine learning object recognition, including in a white paper published in 2017. The company's work on the matter is also evident in the numerous patent applications it files.
The company also maintains a fleet of self-driving cars equipped with LiDAR on California roads for testing purposes. Its fleet of vehicles doubled their road testing miles in 2020, and reports of fewer human interventions suggest that its technology is improving.
Rumors of the "Apple Car" have heated up in 2021, with prominent automakers like Hyundai said to be in talks to produce the self-driving car. While those talks have ended, analysts indicate that Apple could still be shopping around for an automotive partner.
Vehicle tech isn't the only area in which Apple has explored using LIDAR. Recent iPad Pro and iPhone 12 Pro devices are equipped with LiDAR scanners that allow for major improvements to both augmented reality and photography.