Apple spied testing self-driving tech in a Lexus RX

While it's surprising to see Apple already testing autonomous car tech, the prototype vehicle it picked seems like a popular choice.

A sensor-laden Lexus RX450h was spotted leaving an Apple facility in Silicon Valley today and all signs point to this being the latest mule for the tech giant's autonomous car tests.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles' website reported just two weeks ago that Apple had received a permit to test a trio of autonomous vehicles and here we see what could be the first fruit of Apple's labors. The tech company joins the ranks of Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Waymo and Uber, all of which are also permitted to test in the state.

Sources at Bloomberg News spotted the Lexus on Silicon Valley roads wearing an array of radar sensors and cameras and Velodyne's most sophisticated, 64-channel, 360-degree 3D LiDAR sensor mounted atop the roof rack -- an off-the-shelf loadout of parts that's not too different from what we've seen from other companies making steps into the autonomous car space. Of course, it's the software behind those sensors that makes all the difference, which you can't exactly see in pictures.

google-self-driving-lexus.jpg

No, this isn't Apple's Lexus RX; it's Google's. However, the sensor package seen here is very similar.

While the photos are a pretty good indicator that Apple is hitting the road with its autonomous testing, they don't tell us much about how close we are to an Apple Car or even CarOS software that could be licensed to other, established automakers.

What we do know is that the Lexus RX must be a really good autonomous testing platform if both Apple and Alphabet's Waymo (as well as Google before it) have chosen the SUV as prototyping test beds for their tech.

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