Skip to main content

New images show Apple SUVs with expanded LIDAR system for self-driving data collection

Images have recently emerged showing new Lexus SUVs being used by Apple that feature an updated array of sensors and cameras on top. While Apple has been using such vehicles for some time now, these new cars seemingly feature a much more elaborate and advanced sensor setup.

The updated Lexus car was first spotted near Apple offices in Sunnyvale, California by MacRumors. As we’ve reported in the past, Apple has leased several buildings of office space in Sunnyvale for work on its car efforts, though the fate of that project is currently somewhat unclear.

The first alleged images of Apple’s self-driving Lexus test vehicles emerged earlier this year, and as you can see below, the LIDAR array was a lot simpler then. It’s hard to know what exact changes have been made by just looking at the new vehicle, but it’s clear the system has been upgraded. The cars feature two central LIDAR setups at the front and rear of the SUV, with other sensors surround them.

Apple has also updated its self-driving test vehicles to the 2016/2017 Lexus RX450h SUV. The company was previously using the 2015 model of the car.

Apple’s original LIDAR setup

As the team over at Electrek has explained several times, LIDAR is generally useful for “ground truthing,” which is the process of “collecting ground-truth data to enable calibration of remote-sensing data and help develop systems.” Far more computing power and hardware is needed for a true self-driving vehicle, however.

As we reported, those are used for benchmarking – more especially for “ground truthing”, which is the practice of collecting ground-truth data to enable calibration of remote-sensing data and help develop systems (in this case, self-driving algorithms) around the data.

Tim Cook has confirmed that Apple is working on a “large project” taking advanced of autonomous systems, noting that the central purpose of such technology is self-driving cars. Cook, however, wouldn’t directly confirm that Apple was making a car, only saying that “we’ll see where it takes us.”

Reports in the past have highlighted Apple’s vested interest in self-driving car technology. Just this week, however, a report explained that several major missteps have forced Apple to move from “creating a self-driving Apple car to creating technology for a car that someone else builds.” Thus, it’s clear that Apple’s self-driving car project is operating with a moving target sort of goal and what emerges from it remains to be seen.

Check out 9to5Mac on YouTube for more Apple news:

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel



Avatar for Chance Miller Chance Miller

Chance is an editor for the entire 9to5 network and covers the latest Apple news for 9to5Mac.

Tips, questions, typos to