Apple Inc has held discussions with about four companies as possible providers for next-generation lidar sensors in self-driving cars, reviewing the companies’ technology while also still contributing on its own lidar unit, three people familiar with the talks stated.
The moves provide fresh proof of Apple’s renewed ambitions to get into the autonomous vehicle derby, an effort it refers as Project Titan. The discussions are focused on next-generation lidar, a sensor that offers a three-dimensional look at the road.
Apple is looking for the lidar units that would be smaller, cheaper and more comfortably mass produced than present technology, the three people stated. The iPhone maker is setting a high bar with demands for a “revolutionary design,” one of the people knowledgeable with the talks stated. The people refused to name the firms Apple has approached.
The sensor effort means Apple aims to develop the whole chain of hardware to guide autonomous vehicles and has joined automakers and investors in the race to discover winning technologies.
In addition to reviewing potential outside providers, Apple is believed to have its own internal lidar sensor under construction, two of the people said.
Alphabet-owned Waymo has adopted a similar strategy, assembling a sensor and computer system while inking deals to purchase vehicles from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).
Apple gets “a lot of optionality by working on the perception stack,” stated the second person knowledgeable with the talks. “Bringing a passenger car to the market is really, really hard, and there’s no factor right now they need to jump into it.”