Is Apple developing a self-driven, driverless car? That is the question on everybody’s mind after photos and videos of a car doing the rounds of the streets of San Francisco have been posted on social media websites.
According to MacRumors, the mysterious van, a Dodge Caravan was laden with several cameras and apparatuses as it moved around San Francisco. It has already been dubbed the Apple van. While there were no Apple markings on the vehicle, a brief investigation of its license number revealed that the vehicle was registered to Apple, Inc.
This has led to speculations that the Apple van is likely to be a vehicle being used to develop a driverless vehicle, perhaps in competition to Google who has also embarked on a similar mission. Another possibility that is being talked about is the introduction of Apple’s own version of StreetView for iOS Maps. Apple (in)famously debuted its own iOS Maps in lieu of Google Maps back in 2012. The move was criticized by even hardcore iOS users because of its lack of features and overall polish when compared to Google Maps.
Photos and videos of the vehicle in action were in the meantime posted by a Bay Area local blog named Claycord.
According to BusinessInsider, there is good chance that this Apple van is being used to bring a Google StreetView like feature to iOS Maps. There is good reason to believe so because of the fact that Apple now touts its own Maps as a competitive alternative to Google Maps – although the actual number of people using it is anybody’s guess.
That said, the blog post by Claycord has a different take on what the Apple van could possibly be. According to them, the van bore a striking resemblance to another self-driven Dodge Caravan that was spotted in New York back in September. In a brief interview with TV station KPIX, technology analyst Rob Enderle claimed that the vehicle in question had “too many cameras” for it to be called a mapping vehicle. Instead, the cameras on this one were angled down at all four corners of the vehicle – adding credence to speculation that they were designed to keep an eye on the road – rather than on things around the road.
What goes against the speculation that this Apple van is indeed a driverless vehicle prototype is the fact that Apple does not hold a permit for testing driverless vehicles. Enderle, however, argues that a cash-rich company like Apple can easily forge a partnership with one of the six companies that do have the permit to do so.
Apple has in the meantime maintained a stoic silence on the issue, as is custom for the iPhone maker. What do you think this mysterious new Apple Van is all about? Could you see yourselves driving an Apple-powered driverless car in 2020?
[Image via Claycord]