Tech giant Apple is always on the run to find something new, to innovate and to launch something new. According to a report of Reuters, Apple has held discussions 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. The report comes from three people familiar with the matter who wish to remain anonymous.
Self-driving cars are one of the hottest topics in the world of tech right now, and it’s not hard to see why. Driving can be sometimes a little monotonous and tiring activity. Even good drivers can make mistakes that may end in serious accidents. Wouldn’t that be nice if the cars could drive all by itself and use advanced technologies to avoid accidents?
This is what a self-driving car is! A self-driving car, also known as a robot car, autonomous car, or driver less car, is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and moving with little or no human input.
A self-driving car with necessary sensors to sense its environment; Image Source: news.voyage.auto
Autonomous cars combine a variety of sensors to become aware or conscious of their surroundings. The key sensor for self-driving cars is LiDAR sensor, which is the short form of Light Detection and Ranging. This sensor has the ability to map out the environment around a car with 360 degrees of visibility. It can also detect obstacles for the car to avoid them, with its insanely accurate depth sensing technology.
LiDAR sensor; How it works; Image Source: azosensors.com
It continually fires off beams of laser light, and then measures how long it takes for the light to return to the sensor. By firing off millions of beams of light per second, the measurements from the LIDAR sensor enable a visualization of the world that is truly 3D . It’s typically a bulky box mounted on the roof that spins continuously.
Current LiDAR systems, including units from Velodyne Inc which is the high-powered LiDAR on current market, use laser light pulses to render precise images of the environment around the car. It uses mechanical parts to sweep the laser scanners across the road. That makes them too bulky and liable to failure for use in mass-produced vehicles. The entire system may cost upto $100,000 .
LiDAR sensor, the key self-driving car sensor, mounted on the roof of a car; Image Source: news.voyage.auto
Apple project called Project Titan, is currently focused on next-generation LiDAR. Its moves provide evidence of Apple’s ambitions to enter the autonomous vehicle industry. Apple is seeking LiDAR sensors that are cheaper, smaller, and more easily mass produced than what is currently available. A person familiar with the matter said to Reuters,
They’re not happy with most of what they see, they’re looking for a revolutionary design.
Apple wants to develop the entire hardware to guide autonomous vehicles and has joined automakers to find revolutionary technologies. Apple is believed to have its own internal LiDAR sensor under development besides of evaluating potential outside suppliers.
One of the biggest shortcomings of todays LiDAR sensors is its cost, reduction of which is Apples main goal. According to Reuters report, Apple may use conventional semiconductor manufacturing techniques in their revolutionary design of LiDAR sensor, which has the potential to minimize prices from the many thousands to the hundreds of dollars.
Another field of improvement is to increase the vision of the sensor. Apple wants sensors that can see several hundred meters (yards) down the road. Size of the LiDAR sensor is another deficiency. Apples new design using typical semiconductor production processes will help to reduce the size also.
A car of Project Titan; Project Titan is a car driving project of Apple; Image Source: inverse.com
Project Titan is a car driving project of Apple. Just like its other projects, Apple wanted the design of Apple Car to be exquisite. Project Titan is headed by Bob Mansfield, who has previously worked on MacBook Air and Apple Watch. Along with him, Doug Field, who left in 2013 to join Tesla, came back to work on Project Titan. But for many years the fruits of Apple’s self-driving car project was not seen, until this news came up.
It still remains unclear whether the current goal of Apple’s Project Titan is to build its own vehicle or supply the hardware and software elements of self-driving car while pairing with a partner for the entire vehicle. No matter what the goal is, in both ways we may expect some magnificent innovation by Apple towards this self-driving industry.