With all the fuss over Waymo and Uber, with Didi and SoftBank as well as GM, Toyota and Mercedes Benz all vying for the top AV spot. One major game player has been quietly keeping out of the limelight and maybe rightly so.
Apple is a global accomplished game-changer; they are the founders of smartphones, the originators of windows (the Mac version) and a truly genius company that lost their leading light, Steve Jobs, a few years ago. With all this pedigree it is no wonder that Apple is well within the AV game, but just like the past, when they worked on secret campaigns that brought about the iPod and the iPhone, now Apple is perhaps working on the iAV.
Apple has around 45 AV's currently being tested on public roads in the US. That is more than Uber, Waymo and anyone else involved in AV research, (Sorry, GM has more, but not by a lot). Apple calls its project Titan, and it is made up of Lexus RX450h SUVs, which is a sure sign of collaboration between Apple and Lexus and the way the two have been keeping media silence over the past few years.
Apple did decide to concentrate on software solutions for AV technology back in 2016, but that doesn't mean that LiDAR is out of bounds for them. From an engineering point of view, a LiDAR requires just as much software management as it needs reliable hardware. However, based on the rare sightings of Apple AV's there are a lot of LiDAR racks and gadgets on the roof of their AV's.
What is interesting to note is that Lexus is a Toyota company, it is the luxury brand of Toyota, and Toyota is currently in negotiations with Uber to collaborate in its AV research. Maybe what we see here is a consolidation of technologies that Uber is a part of, and in direct response to the Uber Waymo incident. If Toyota and Uber do join forces, it means that Toyota, Uber, Lexus, and Apple will be collaborating in a major offensive to lead the world AV market.
Navigant, a research firm just scored Apple below its competitors in the AV chase, and perhaps this is what Apple wants. After all, Apple has always enjoyed a dramatic entrance with new technologies way ahead of all its rivals.
I think its time we started to pay attention to Apple AV "Titan" a little bit more.