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Apple’s Self-Driving Lexus May Have Been Spotted with New Hardware

The tech giant's Lexus may have been fitted with new self-driving tech.

Apple has been working on developing autonomous systems for self-driving cars. Hidden behind iron-clad walls, Apple’s projects aren’t usually this public (except for that time when the company lost an iPhone 4 prototype), so limited news on something meant to be much bigger isn’t all that uncommon. But now, someone seems to have come across Apple’s latest iteration of their self-driving car hardware out in the wild.

As a part of what it calls Project Titan, Apple has been working to develop the underlying tech for self-driving cars, sending a fleet of Lexus RX 450h SUVs on adventures across Silicon Valley. Most recently, the Lexus seems to have been spotted looking like it just got a haircut and a shave, and lost a few pounds since the last time we saw it on the road. Now the shiny white SUV has a shiny new hat, comprised of an array of new sensors.

The poster of the spy shot is none other than MacCallister Higgins, co-founder of the self-driving taxi startup, Voyage. Higgins points out that there are six groups of sensors on Lexus, one in each corner, one forward facing, and one rear facing. He notes that each Velodyne LiDAR puck is barred at about 280 degrees of viewing angle. He’s not sure whether this is due to a need for a physical barrier in between the sensors to avoid interference or if something else is going on. Regardless, it’s interesting to have another industry professional weigh in on just how they make sense of the prototype’s setup.

This is a significantly larger group of sensors than what appeared on the first prototype, including 10 more LiDAR sensors than what Bloomberg reported were present on its predecessor. Neither Apple nor Lexus have responded to our requests for comment.

Apparently, this isn’t the first time that the new setup has been spotted cruising around the valley. Several weeks ago, another user posted a photo of a similar unit pulling up to an Apple shuttle stop, which reinforces the thought that Apple has been putting its focus into the Palo Alto to Infinite Loop (PAIL) project rather than into Project Titan.

Whether Apple chooses to actually develop a car or not is still in the air. Looming reports of Apple giving up due to hardships have been circulating for some time, even being backed up by being technologically behind Google’s sister company, Waymo, by nearly three years. The public will just have to wait and see if any announcements are made regarding the program, but as long as we see the white Lexus with the funny hat, we still have hope.