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Apple is looking to buy key parts for its self-driving Apple Car

Published Feb 19th, 2021 7:03PM EST
Apple Car Rumors
Image: ZinetroN/Adobe

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  • Apple is reportedly negotiating for key parts for its self-driving Apple Car — the LiDAR sensors that would allow the vehicle to see where it is and navigate its surroundings.
  • Apple is negotiating with various providers in search of the LiDAR technology that will be considered cutting edge four or five years from now.
  • Apple already uses such sensors in the iPhone 12 and iPad Pro to power low-light photography and deliver augmented reality apps.

Apple is making its own driverless car. That’s what an increasing number of reports say, with the mythical Apple Car possibly set to launch in five years time. Apple would need to partner with an established carmaker that already has an automotive supply line in place that could be used for the Apple Car.

That company would just mass-produce the Apple Car, with Apple in charge of the design, in-car experience, and the software to power it all. The Apple Car would be electric and would not require a driver, several reports have said. Apple is already working on those two key technologies. A new story claims that Apple is already chasing the critical component that would make its self-driving car ambitions a reality.

One of Apple’s main strengths under Tim Cook has been establishing the kind of crucial partnerships that would allow it to manufacture devices at a scale its rivals cannot. Apple doesn’t build the iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, or Mac itself — It makes millions of each of those products every year, all of them requiring a specific supply chain. Reports have painted Apple as a fierce negotiator with suppliers, which need to adhere to Apple’s strict demands for the parts they’re manufacturing. Despite that, Apple is the kind of customer that everybody wants, and its moves can make or break companies.

According to Bloomberg, Apple has already started negotiating the purchase of LiDAR sensors, similar to the ones available in the iPhone 12 and iPad Pro, for the Apple Car. The sensor Apple uses in mobile devices can help with low-light photography and augmented reality features. For its car, Apple is looking for the next-generation LiDAR tech that could allow a vehicle to “see” everything around itself and navigate those surroundings. Apple isn’t the only tech company developing self-driving car technology employing LiDAR technology.

The report notes that Apple is in discussions with multiple suppliers, according to people familiar with the matter. The same people have said that the car would be ready for mass-production in five years at the earliest. Apple is in talks for LiDAR tech “that will be considered cutting edge four to five years from now.”

Apple has been testing its self-driving cars on public roads in California since 2017, initially using LiDAR stacks made with off-the-shelf parts, Bloomberg notes. But in recent years, the sensor hardware has become a more bespoke effort.

While Apple relies on custom parts in its products, it also develops its own hardware. The custom chips in iPhone and Mac are one such example. Recent rumors that said Hyundai and Kia were in the running for winning the Apple Car contract claimed that Apple would take the same approach for the Apple Car. The company would control the hardware and software, with Hyundai and Kia providing the chassis and assembling the finished product. Since then, Hyundai and Kia have both denied working with Apple.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.