As Apple’s autonomous car project, dubbed internally as “Project Titan,” remains relatively immature, some backup drivers have had to intervene during tests — with one self-driving vehicle nearly hitting a pedestrian.
According to a report from The Information, Apple’s self-driving car project nearly hit a jogger crossing the street earlier this year, signaling larger struggles the company is having with its ongoing self-driving car development.
In the first quarter, a jogger who had the right of way was crossing the street at an unmarked crosswalk when an Apple test vehicle driving about 15 miles per hour was emergency stopped by the backup driver after the car nearly hit the pedestrian.
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Within just a second, the vehicle categorized the jogger as a stationary object, before recategorizing them as a stationary person, then recognizing all too late that it was, in fact, a moving pedestrian.
Instead of coming to a stop, the vehicle slightly adjusted its path, forcing the human driver to slam on the brakes — landing within just a few feet of the jogger.
Apple is legally required to report incidents like this, according to one unnamed source, who shared details about the incident and said the car would have certainly hit the jogger, were it not for the backup driver.
Back in 2017, Apple was testing its modified Lexus vehicles at a robo city test track in Arizona, with this Baja fleet cost almost $1 million per car, based on lidar sensors onboard. Sources tell The Information Apple has since started making its own custom lidar sensors, instead of using Velodyne’s.
Apple is also leveraging former design chief Jony Ive for Project Titan. Ive has apparently told Apple to not hide the car’s lidar sensors and integrate it into the design. The current Apple car design has four seats that face inward and a curved ceiling akin to that of a Volkswagen Beetle, say sources.
Also being tested is a trunk area that rises and automatically lowers. Other ideas include screens that rise from behind seats, plus an option to let passengers lie flat and sleep in the car. Apple wants its vehicle to lack a steering wheel and brakes.
A final version of Apple car is said to hit roads possibly as early as 2023 for testing, codenamed M101.
Project Titan from Apple has struggled to retain employees, with one manager leaving for a LiDAR project as recently as May.