Scientists At Apple Inc. (AAPL) Just Published Significant Self-Driving Research

Self-driving cars often use a combination of normal two-dimensional cameras and depth-sensing “LiDAR” units to recognize the world around them

In 2015, the news spread of the company may be working on a vehicle, but of course, Apple didn't say a word to deny or acknowledge the news.

Thus, instead of the additional camera, Apple's scientists have proposed a detection method based exclusively on LiDAR.

Autonomous vehicles use a combination of 2D cameras and LiDAR (a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure distance ranges) to navigate the world around them.

Apple's team has achieved "highly encouraging results" in using AI to examine the sparse LiDAR data alone and pick out distant pedestrians and cyclists.

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While the units supply depth information, their low resolution makes it hard to detect small, faraway objects without help from a normal camera linked to it in real time. The method could help machines detect any pedestrians and cyclists in its path.

First reported by TNW, Apple's AI and machine learning researchers Yin Zhou and Oncel Tuzel, published a paper last week, which represented one of the first major breakthroughs we've seen from Apple's self-driving project.

"Furthermore, our network learns an effective discriminative representation of objects with various geometries, leading to encouraging results in 3D detection of pedestrians and cyclists, based on only LiDAR", the paper stated.

Tests were only conducted on a computer simulation, but Apple said it was able to outperform "state-of-the-art LIDAR-based 3D detection methods by a large margin".

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The iPhone maker has been relatively silent on self-driving cars beyond a few vague comments from Chief Executive Tim Cook. In other words, Apple may not be building an actual auto, but instead creating key software that will help these vehicles operate without a driver. We know Apple's working on this because it's had to admit as much in order to secure a self-driving test permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, and because its test auto has been spotted in and around time.

The paper was first noticed by Reuters, which said it was first submitted on November 17 to an independent online journal called arXiv.

While the scientific part of the paper is interesting, the most surprising part about it is that it exists at all.

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