Apple is seemingly looking to improve its Maps offering by using cars with special cameras attached to them and driving around. Either that or it's testing a self-driving car.
The news comes from the residents of Concord, CA where a mysterious black van, reportedly registered to Apple, has been roaming the streets. On top of the van there are a number of cameras, and in all likelihood a LiDAR system. The system seems to be similar to that found on other self-driving vehicles, as can be seen in the video below.
While some have speculated that Apple is maybe looking to get into the self-driving car business, that seems to be unlikely, at least based on this evidence. The car might used for some kind of mapping effort, whether its simply improving the Maps app or creating a StreetView type feature.
Ever since it dropped Gmaps from its iPhones, Apple has been struggling to improve its own service. Despite the company’s efforts Apple Maps is still miles behind the competition but it looks like the company is trying to fix that.
That being said the number of cameras and their angle doesn't fit very well with the mapping theory, as they seem much more focused on the immediate vicinity of the car. However, Apple doesn't have a license to test self-driving cars so they might only be testing a particular feature, like Siri smart car commands, perhaps in hopes of integrating it with some of their own offerings.
The company declined to comment, as per their usual policy, but the whole event raises interesting questions.
Source: CBS San Francisco