Apple’s using a Lexus RX450h SUV for its autonomous vehicle testing program, as revealed by documents filed with the California DMV in accordance with licensing requirements for self-driving tests in the state. Now, Bloomberg has images of the vehicle in action, captured by a chance observer who saw the vehicle pull out of an Apple facility in Silicon Valley.
The SUV looks pretty much like similar test cars used by Waymo, the former Google self-driving car company whose headquarters are pretty much just down the road from Apple’s Cupertino HQ. The equipment adorning the SUV include optical cameras, LiDAR, and radar, all of which appear to be off-the-shelf components, including Velodyne’s top-of-the-line LiDAR unit atop a frame that extends a few feet out from the roof of the vehicle.
Judging by these spy shots and the information found in the DMV documents made public by a public records request, Apple is very early in its autonomous technology program compared to companies like Waymo (which has been developing its tech for nearly a decade), and even Uber. The test vehicle’s lack of any obvious custom parts suggest that, at least at this stage, the company’s emphasis is on software development first and foremost.
We already knew that Apple had some kind of self-driving test program in place, and we already knew what vehicles it was using, but seeing images of the SUV on the road is still a bit like getting a glimpse of an elusive and previously mythical white whale.