Some strange looking vehicles have been spotted around San Francisco Bay, black minivans with cameras attached to them and, according to the California DMV, at least one belongs to Apple. A report says that they are a part of an Apple Map project but they are similar in looks to self-driving cars. However, that isn’t really likely at this stage, mainly because Apple does not have the required permit for such a vehicle but there’s a good chance the vehicles are part of a plan to improve iOS 9 Maps.
Image : iOS 9 StreetView Possibility
The minivans have what look like a LiDAR sensor on the roof, fitted to a cross-shaped frame with several cameras on the corners. There are also a couple of small antennas with sensors over each while, possibly for measuring distance. This is the kind of technology that can be used for map building and for high-res imaging for a service that would be similar to Google Street View, which leads to speculation that the Cupertino Company is looking to provide some competition.
An identical minivan, in white, was seen in New York last year but, according to analyst Rob Enderle, there are too many cameras for just mapping. He belies that Apple is indeed testing out self-driving technology, given that there are at least 12 cameras on board. However, the vehicles that Google uses for Street View come equipped with 15 cameras, each one with a 5-megapixel sensor so 12 isn’t over the top.
Image : Apple vehicle with camera’s mounted
Street View is the most popular feature of Google Maps, setting the service way ahead of the competition. While it would make sense for Apple to go down the same route, we shouldn’t get too excited just yet. This kind of service can take many years to build up and, given the serious problems with the Maps app on iOS 6, Apple isn’t likely to push out a new service until it is certain it’s perfect.
Your thoughts on this ? Is it the right direction for Apple to take with their Maps app ?