A Dodge mini van equipped with what appears to be cameras and sensors has been spotted near San Francisco on Wednesday, and Apple is reportedly connected to the mystery vehicle. Claycord, a San Francisco Bay area news blog, later reported the same type of vehicle was spotted in Brooklyn, N.Y.
In photos published by Claycord, the van is pictured with an X-shaped frame attached to the roof with what appear to be cameras at each corner. There were also spinning cylinder devices attached to the car that resembled LiDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors, which use lasers to make high-resolution maps and is apart of the sensor systems for many self-driving cars.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles confirmed to CBS's San Francisco affiliate that a blue Dodge Caravan was leased under Apple’s name.
As usual, Apple has remained tight-lipped, leaving many in the tech press to speculate about what Apple is after.
Some wonder if Apple is trying its hand at the burgeoning market for self-driving cars.
Technology analyst Rob Enderle told San Francisco CBS that the number of cameras attached on the car leads him to believe the car is autonomous, but Apple has not filed for any permits for this type of vehicle.
Even with the lack of a permit, Mr. Enderle does not rule out that the company could be experimenting. “It can be a partnership," Enderle says. "You know, they have partnerships with a variety of the carmakers. Just because they’re leasing the car doesn’t necessarily mean it’s their project."
Apple would face stiff competition if it decided to enter the self-driving-car arena. Uber recently announced it would be venturing into the driverless car market and the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show revealed a host of car companies looking to advance the technology.
Another theory is that Apple is attempting to improve its mapping application.
As the Verge reports, LiDAR sensors are used by Google and Nokia to create images for their Street View maps. The car also has the same wheel sensor used by Navteq, a mapping company, to create images for Bing Maps, Microsoft’s version of the service.