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Apple Shares Research into Self-Driving Car Software That Improves Obstacle Detection

Apple computer scientists working on autonomous vehicle technology have posted a research paper online describing how self-driving cars can spot cyclists and pedestrians using fewer sensors (via Reuters).

The paper by Yin Zhou and Oncel Tuzel was submitted to the moderated scientific pre-print repository arXiv on November 17, in what appears to be Apple's first publicly disclosed research on autonomous vehicle technology.


The paper is titled "End-to-End Learning for Point Cloud Based 3D Object Detection", and describes how new software developed by Apple scientists improves the ability of LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) systems to recognize objects including pedestrians and cyclists from a distance.

Self-driving cars typically use a combination of standard cameras and depth-sensing LiDAR units to receive information about the world around them.

Apple's research team said they were able to get "highly encouraging results" using LiDAR data alone to spot cyclists and pedestrians, and wrote that they were also able to beat other approaches for detecting 3D objects that rely solely on LiDAR tech. The experiments were limited to computer simulations and did not advance to road tests.

Apple famously has a secretive research policy and has kept its work under wraps for many years, but over the last 12 months, the company has shared some of its research advancements with other researchers and the wider public, particularly in the area of machine learning.

In December 2016, Apple said that it would start allowing its AI and machine learning researchers to publish and share their work in papers, with the first paper appearing just a few weeks following the announcement.

Additionally, in July of this year, Apple researchers initiated the "Apple Machine Learning Journal", a blog detailing their work on machine learning, AI, and other related topics.

This new policy of openness could help Apple retain employees who do not want to keep their progress a secret, but the latest research into autonomous vehicle technology also lets regulators see that the company is making progress in this area. Last December, Apple told federal regulators it was excited about the technology and asked them not to restrict testing. In April, the company also filed a self-driving car testing plan with California regulators.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has called autonomy "the mother of all AI projects". During an August 2017 earnings call, Cook re-emphasized Apple's deep interest in the technology, and even hinted Apple's work on autonomy could be used for more than vehicles.

Apple has presumably been working on an autonomous driving system since 2014, when rumors of its efforts to create an electric vehicle first surfaced. Apple has now moved away from creating a full vehicle and is said to be focusing on self-driving technology instead.

Related Roundup: Apple Car


Top Rated Comments

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21 weeks ago
This is good for everyone. Apple sharing this research instead of keeping it proprietary shows they are more interested in getting to a sustainable future faster than retaining whatever competitive business advantage this would give them.
Rating: 8 Votes
21 weeks ago
Why are they making these? Who has ever asked for self driving cars?

We wanted FLYING cars, I think they got this mixed up somewhere.
Rating: 7 Votes
21 weeks ago


We wanted FLYING cars, I think they got this mixed up somewhere.


And I wouldn't say no to a time machine, so I can bring back an almanac, get rich and finally be able to afford the new iMac pro
Rating: 5 Votes
21 weeks ago

check your stats: sad but not millions—fewer than 40,000 deaths per year, “only” 3.6 million 1899-2013, according to National Traffic Safety Transportation Bd.

FYI: US is not the only country on Earth.
http://asirt.org/initiatives/informing-road-users/road-safety-facts/road-crash-statistics

* Nearly 1.3 million people die in road crashes each year, on average 3,287 deaths a day.
* An additional 20-50 million are injured or disabled.
Rating: 5 Votes
21 weeks ago

check your stats: sad but not millions—fewer than 40,000 deaths per year, “only” 3.6 million 1899-2013, according to National Traffic Safety Transportation Bd.

that said—I am not yet crazy about self-driving cars either. Daughter and son-in-law were backseat passengers in vehicle with self-driving engaged that “failed to see” highway exit barrier and would have crashed but for host’s screaming shotgun-riding wife.


You most be one of them that thinks US is the entire world. Here ('http://asirt.org/initiatives/informing-road-users/road-safety-facts/road-crash-statistics')
And I was talking about how it effects the millions of others life, the injured.
And of course, a single or maybe few accidents on a beta testing self driving cars of the future is a clear indication of capabilities if this technology. Nothing compare with the human madness on the road.
[doublepost=1511358366][/doublepost]


Careful what you ask for..... quite a few plan crashes were attributed to automation . Sadly human can adapt and react to situations, when a computer encounters an edge case the consequences can be tragic be it a plane or car.


It is a beta testing technology that can be improved beyond what we even think it is possible today.
And thank you, but I don't trust humans on the road. I have seen quite enough. Can't wait to see the day driving on the road becomes illegal (if in my lifetime)
Rating: 4 Votes
21 weeks ago

Why are they making these? Who has ever asked for self driving cars?

We wanted FLYING cars, I think they got this mixed up somewhere.


One step at a time.
And who asked for self driving cars? Since humans are quite good at causing terrible accidents on the road that costs the life of millions each year, self driving car seems the logical solution. Who wouldn't want to minimise the road accidents?
Rating: 4 Votes
21 weeks ago
arXiv is not an "online independent journal", it's a preprint service. This means anybody can post, and the articles are not peer reviewed. It's usually used to quickly publicise work that has been submitted to a journal or conference.
The upshot being: arXiv posts many interesting things, but they're not always correct.
Rating: 3 Votes
21 weeks ago

Why are they making these? Who has ever asked for self driving cars?

We wanted FLYING cars, I think they got this mixed up somewhere.


Assisted and self driving cars, a huge advantage to the driving impaired. Whether that be age, or other factors. A big number of folks. An even larger benefit, managing traffic and associated problems (crashes). Drivers in general are terrible at, driving. I doubt one in ten could pass a certified safe driving test. Then add the value of having assisted and self driving commercial vehicles, a very large number of businesses interested. Apple and others seeing the potential for this technology. A good thing Apple and others do not listen to us.:D
Rating: 2 Votes
21 weeks ago

arXiv is not an "online independent journal", it's a preprint service. This means anybody can post, and the articles are not peer reviewed. It's usually used to quickly publicise work that has been submitted to a journal or conference.
The upshot being: arXiv posts many interesting things, but they're not always correct.


Thanks, my mistake. I've changed the description.
Rating: 2 Votes
21 weeks ago
I honestly never want a self driving car. I have little faith in computers being able to reliably do something so dynamic. I hope theres never any forced self-driving cars only laws put into place.
Rating: 1 Votes

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