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Here’s a closer look at Apple’s secret self-driving car

Here’s a closer look at Apple’s secret self-driving car


That’s one top-heavy SUV

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A new video of what would appear to be one of Apple’s “Project Titan” self-driving cars was posted to Twitter last night, and it looks much different than it did the last time we saw it. The car appears to be outfitted with standard third-party sensors and hardware, including (count ‘em) six Velodyne-made LIDAR sensors, several radar units, and a number of cameras — all encased in Apple-esque white plastic.

The video was captured by someone who knows his stuff about autonomous vehicles: MacCallister Higgins, co-founder of self-driving startup Voyage (that just launched its own pilot ride-hailing project in a San Jose retirement community). Higgins jokingly referred to the vehicle as “The Thing,” most likely ribbing Apple for the bulkiness of its sensor array.

Indeed, when you compare Apple’s car with the latest iteration of Waymo’s self-driving minivan, the differences are striking. While Waymo has minimized and streamlined its sensors so they conform nicely with the vehicle’s body, Apple’s are perched on the vehicle’s roof like an ugly cargo carrier.

When I asked Higgins if he caught a look at the compute stack, he replied that it was likely located on the roof with the sensors. That would be a departure from other self-driving car operators, who typically load their high-powered GPUs in the vehicles’ spacious trunks.

Earlier this year, Apple caused a stir when it applied for and received a permit to test autonomous vehicles on public roads in California. We do know, from various reports that Apple has ditched its ambitions to build an entirely new vehicle from scratch and has instead shifted focused to building autonomous software it could develop for existing carmakers. Last July, CEO Tim Cook confirmed in an interview that the iPhone maker is currently “focusing on autonomous systems” — rather than, say, a car stamped with the Apple logo — and that this could be used for many different purposes.

An Apple spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.