Apple has been extremely tight-lipped when it comes to their self-driving car project. However, a recently published research paper seemingly shows the first glimpse into what the Cupertino-based tech giant is working on.
According to Reuters, computer scientists at Apple are looking into how self-driving cars can utilize better detect the presence of cyclists and pedestrians while using fewer sensors than what is standard in the autonomous vehicle industry.
The research paper titled "End-to-End Learning for Point Cloud Based 3D Object Detection" was written by Yin Zhou and Oncel Tuzel and was published in the online journal arXiv on Nov. 17.
The paper introduces a new software called VoxelNet, which enhances autonomous vehicles' ability to detect three-dimensional objects such as pedestrians and cyclists. The researchers also stated that VoxelNet is able to outperform Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) and two-dimensional camera systems that are commonly used by self-driving cars.
With LIDAR, a self-driving vehicle would usually shoot light beams and measure how long it takes the laser to come back. Cameras help determine the distance between certain objects — whether they are small or far away.
VoxelNet, on the other hand, is said to eliminate the need for cameras. With this software, LIDAR alone is able to detect objects and determine their distance.
Researchers revealed "encouraging results" but noted that further study is needed to improve detection and localization accuracy. Furthermore, initial experiments were only computer simulations and did not involve road tests.
Apple is notably secretive when it comes to the development of not just its self-driving car but also its other products. However, the tech giant is expected to reveal more information about its autonomous vehicle research moving forward. As Mashable noted, autonomous driving systems require not only public testing but also government oversight.
Nevertheless, Apple has declined to comment on this recent development.
The first official confirmation that Apple was working on self-driving technology came in April when the California Department of Motor Vehicles included the tech giant in the list of companies allowed to test autonomous cars in the state.