Apple Maps Vehicles Begin Surveying Connecticut, Imagery Could Aid Apple's Autonomous Driving Efforts

Apple has updated its website to indicate that its Apple Maps vehicles will begin surveying Connecticut for the first time this month.


For nearly two years, Apple has been driving vehicles around the world to collect data for Apple Maps—widely believed to be street-level imagery. Since 2015, the vehicles have surveyed over 30 states in the United States, in addition to parts of the United Kingdom, Italy, France, and Sweden.

Apple said it will blur faces and license plates on collected images prior to publication, suggesting that it could be working on adding a Street View feature to Apple Maps, similar to what Google Maps has offered for several years. But, the imagery and other mapping data could be used for a variety of purposes.

When Apple's fleet of Dodge Caravans first hit the streets, it was speculated they could be the basis of an Apple Car. But those rumors quieted down after the vans were labeled with Apple Maps decals, and because Apple has shifted towards autonomous driving software, rather than an entire vehicle, at least for now.

Moreover, the California Department of Motor Vehicles confirmed that Apple is using a fleet of Lexus SUVs, which have since been spotted on the road, to test self-driving software. It's known that Apple's platform currently uses a Logitech wheel and pedals, and drivers can take over manually if necessary.

Nevertheless, so-called Apple Maps vehicles could still be playing a role in the company's autonomous driving plans.

Neil Cybart, an independent Apple analyst at Above Avalon, told MacRumors that Apple Maps vehicles are "very likely capturing mapping data," such as street level imagery, that will aid Apple's autonomous driving efforts.

I don't think these Apple Maps vehicles are just meant to improve Apple Maps. Instead, my suspicion is they are part of Project Titan. Specifically, the vehicles are likely playing a role in building the groundwork for Apple's autonomous driving technology. The data collected by these vehicles may be used for testing autonomous driving technology using indoor simulation.

Cybart, who confirmed seeing an Apple Maps vehicle in Connecticut earlier this week, said the mapping data collected could be a "foundation" for Apple's autonomous driving technology platform.

Apple Maps vehicles are not autonomous cars. Instead, they are very likely capturing mapping data (i.e. imagery) that will aid Apple's autonomous driving efforts. My view is that this mapping data isn't just for Apple Maps Street View, which wouldn't be too useful, but rather for building a mapping foundation for Apple's autonomous driving technology platform.

Connecticut and many other states that Apple has surveyed don't currently allow autonomous vehicle testing on their public roads, so Apple very likely is collecting data only, as it says. Whether that data is used for a Street View feature, autonomous driving software, or both, remains to be seen.

Related Roundup: Apple Car

Top Rated Comments

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44 months ago
An Apple car run by Apple maps with dictation by Siri? No thank you. How about some updates to your computers? The Mac Mini hasn't been updated since October 2014. Let that sink in.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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44 months ago

If autonomously self-driven cars were to suddenly populate the roadways tomorrow, not sure why there would be a reduction in fuel and energy costs, or a reduction in wear and tear (to roads, bridges or to vehicles as a whole?) You also realize that there wouldn't be a reduction to the amount of cars on the road either. If all cars were suddenly swapped with autonomously driven cars, plus further increasing the amount of vehicles on the road due to many companies "cashing in" on autonomously driven car services, the number will greatly increase. The most novel idea here is one of safety, but it will be a long time yet before that is guaranteed. While overall your sentiments are novel and heroic, and we appreciate your sacrifice for mankind, my guess is that you currently live in a heavily populated area and either use public transportation on a daily basis, or ride a bike to get around?

1) Autonomous vehicles are more efficient by nature than human drivers, hence they're more fuel efficient and reduce wear and tear. They can also drive closer together at a given speed—potentially without a traffic wave once vehicles are locally linked, which allows for even more vehicles to be placed on a road (as previously stated), which also helps increase efficiency through drafting.

2) I see nothing novel about automotive safety.

3) You have nothing to worry about. Technology will evolve at pace so there's no "if all cars were suddenly swapped" scenario to be concerned about. In a generation or two everyone will be scratching their head as to why old people thought they were better suited at handling a multi-tonne vehicle in a stressful situation over a multi-redundant system with dozens of sensor doing a billion or calculations a second without ever getting tired, distracted, rubbernecking, dealign with a bee in the car, changing the radio, a crying kid, a stressful day, and on and on and on. This is the future.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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44 months ago
Besides some Millennials and corporations who stand to potentially make billions of dollars on a potential reshaping of the automotive industry, who else is really that interested in self-driving cars, anyway? Seems like Apple and many others are doing what they can to force this change to grab a slice of the pie, to reap financial benefits.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
44 months ago

[USER=621566]@Col4bin[/USER] right regarding infrastructure. It's the one point you seem to be glossing over. The biggest impediment to autonomous driving is infrastructure. The roads have to be better. Right now in the US, the roads are quite crappy and as he mentioned, funding for improvements is sorely lacking. That doesn't even take into account all of the new infrastucture that will have to be created for full autonomy to be a reality. The streets will literally have to be as computerized as the cars. As for the cars, there will have to be standards set and followed by all car makers so that all the cars can actually communicate with each other. Every company's home brew is going to have to have that common communication ingredient. Otherwise, it ain't gonna work. cbefore the picture you've painted even has a chance to become a reality.

1) Since autonomous vehicles exist today it invalidates your entire claim that all those things will have to be changed before any advancement in autonomous driving will occur, not to mention previously statement advancements that have occurred over the last century.

2) There are hurdles with every advancement but you two are only seeing a mountain and saying "we can't step over that" instead of seeing how every step gets you a little closer to your destination. Again, this is happening right now whether you like it or not.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
44 months ago

Besides some Millennials and corporations who stand to potentially make billions of dollars on a potential reshaping of the automotive industry, who else is really that interested in self-driving cars, anyway? Seems like Apple and many others are doing what they can to force this change to grab a slice of the pie, to reap financial benefits.

What did I just read?

Lots of people die and get severely injured in car accidents, mainly because they are distracted, tired, sleepy or even drunk.

Lots of people need their mobility but they can't, because they are handicapped, too old to drive, suffering disease, too young to drive, etc.

But yeah, it's just people that want to make money… those capitalist pig-dogs!
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
44 months ago

Besides Millennials and corporations who stand to potentially make billions of dollars on a potential reshaping of the automotive industry, who else is really that interested in self-driving cars, anyway? Seems like Apple and many others are doing what they can to force this change to grab a slice of the pie, to reap financial benefits.

I'm neither of those categories, and I'm all for safer driving that also reduces fuel/energy costs, reduces wear and tear, and allows current highway congestion to allow for faster drive times/current drive times to allow for more congestion.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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