Apple is reportedly in talks with LiDAR makers regarding sensors that could be used for its Project Titan self-driving vehicle initiative.
According to a new report from Reuters, Apple has held talks with at least four companies as possible suppliers for next-generation LiDAR sensors in self-driving cars, evaluating the companies’ technology while also still working on its own LiDAR unit.
Lidar sensors use lasers to build a three-dimensional digital view of what’s around the car. That data gets fed into the car’s onboard computer, which uses it to make driving decisions.
Apple is currently using LiDAR sensors from Velodyne Inc and other vendors on its existing fleet of autonomous vehicles. These units, however, are extremely expensive at $100,000 USD, bulky, and the inclusion of mechanical moving parts means they are bound to fail sooner than later.
Three people familiar with the matter said that Apple‘s plan is to seek LiDAR units that would be much smaller, cheaper and capable of being mass-produced at a scale not currently available today. Executives have demanded that it be a “revolutionary design” and it would mean Apple would control the entire production chain of hardware behind autonomous vehicles.
“They’re not happy with most of what they see,” one source told Reuters. “They’re looking for a revolutionary design.” Instead, Apple’s LiDAR wish list includes the ability for the sensors to see several hundred yards down the road, with a sleek, low-profile design.
It remains unclear whether the goal of Apple’s Project Titan is to build its own vehicle or supply the hardware and software elements of the self-driving car while pairing with a partner for the entire vehicle.
In related news, Apple has hired former Tesla engineering vice president Michael Schwekutsch and put him in Apple’s special projects department, which includes Project Titan. Additionally, Apple last year re-hired Doug Field, an Apple veteran who was serving as Tesla’s engineering chief, to work on Project Titan. The project has about 1,200 people, according to a count in court documents.