Apple Car LiDAR sensor report just tipped possible release date

Apple Car concept
(Image credit: Erick Martinez / iDrop News)

The Apple Car just took another step towards reality, with a new report claiming Apple is in talks to buy LiDAR sensors to power self-driving car systems. 

According to Bloomberg Apple is looking for sensors that will be cutting edge “four to five years from now," giving us a better idea of when the car may arrive. We're probably looking at 2025 at the earliest. 

Apparently, Apple is in active talks with a number of companies that can supply it with the LiDAR sensors.

The companies reportedly asked not to be identified, due to the “private nature of the discussions." Presumably, they may also be worried that being publicly associated with the Apple Car will lead to Apple canceling talks. Supposedly, such a reveal was behind the sudden cancelation of the deal between Apple and Hyundai/Kia, after reports came out that they would both be involved in manufacturing the Apple Car.

LiDAR is a common component of self-driving cars, and almost every autonomous vehicle we’ve seen so far has been equipped with them. The system uses lasers as a form of radar to measures the distance between it and other objects based on how long it takes for the light to be reflected back to the sensors. Doing this allows a LiDAR system to basically create an image of its surroundings and thus “see” the area around it.

The iPhone 12 Pro does something similar with the LiDAR sensors in its rear camera array, only that's used for better depth detection in photos and augmented reality apps. 

Apple Car looking for LiDAR

As mentioned, Apple is said to be looking for companies to provide “next-generation” LiDAR systems that will be “considered cutting edge four to five years from now”. 

This would suggest a 2025-2026 launch window is currently on the cards for the Apple Car. That corroborates with some of the later estimates we’ve already heard from analysts, and a recent Bloomberg report claiming Apple’s own employees aren't expecting the car to be ready until at least 2025.

Some reports have claimed Apple will have the car ready as early as 2024. But the fact it’s still sourcing components and looking for a manufacturing partner suggests this won’t be the case. Whatever way you look at things, the Apple Car is still quite a way off.

The main question is what is Apple hoping to achieve with the Apple Car. The company has a history of taking existing technology and making it appealing to the masses; the iPhones did that for smartphones. 

The Apple Car is something new, that’s for sure. But what we’ve heard suggests it isn’t that different from other autonomous vehicles that have been in development by other tech and automotive giants.

Then again if anyone can make people see the potential behind new and emerging technologies, it’s Apple. The brand name alone is usually enough to get people excited.

The crucial thing about the Apple Car is that it’s not being designed as part of an autonomous fleet that you have to summon via an app. The kind that would be completely useless if you live in areas that aren’t being served. It’s a private vehicle that you keep in your garage, just like any other. It just happens to drive itself while you do whatever it is you do to stay occupied. 

But as we’ve seen, it probably won’t be arriving for quite some time.

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.

  • Keng Yuan
    But I can drive with one eye closed, I just tested it today (really, coincidentally). Why do we need lidar if vision can do it alone?

    Depth sensing is not THAT important, it is object recognition and its movement path prediction that is REALLY important.
  • sdflysurf
    Perfect timing for Apple to be looking at LiDAR - Microvision (MVIS) just announced they are on track for April release of their best-in-class LiDAR sample. Currently MVIS valued at approx $3B, which is a value compared to other companies in the LiDAR space with lesser technology. Can't wait to be working on my laptop during my commute to the office (well, when we get back to offices)!!