Google’s camera-equipped Street View cars have been mapping the world for years, and now Apple may be hitting the road with its own fleet of vehicles. The Cupertino company is reportedly testing a minivan with a complex camera rig attached to the roof, though it’s unclear what the technology will be used for.
The car was spotted earlier this week near San Francisco by local news blog Claycord, which points to a video of a similar vehicle in New York uploaded to YouTube last year. In both cases, the van appears to be carrying a LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) system similar to the ones used by Google and Nokia. CBS affiliate KPIX 5 was able to confirm that the car is leased to Apple, though the company wouldn’t reveal what it’s up to.
An Apple-powered version of Street View for the company’s mapping service seems like the obvious explanation here. Apple Maps has been around for a few years now, but still lacks many of the features that make Google’s alternative so popular. Then again, it won’t be easy to record all that footage unless Cupertino has secretly already sent its camera-equipped cars across the country as well.
The mysterious new vehicles could also represent Apple’s own attempt at the driverless car. LIDAR cameras are included in Google’s self-driving car design, though KPIX 5 notes that Apple doesn’t have a permit to test that kind of technology.