CONCORD (CBS SF) — A mysterious minivan with an unknown apparatus on its roof is cruising around the Bay Area, creating speculation it may be a prototype of a self-driving vehicle – this time made by Apple.
A photo posted on the Claycord.com blog shows the Dodge minivan on the streets of Concord. The van appears to be similar to one seen in a YouTube video that claims to be a self-driving vehicle.
“I wondered why it was down there, it didn’t have any markings on the sides of it or anything. I couldn’t figure out what it was,” said Concord resident Melissa Lewis.
According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, the car is leased to Apple, which is not one of the half-dozen companies issued testing permits for driverless cars. CBS has confirmed that a second car in video, used in Brooklyn, New York was also leased to Apple.
Technology analyst Rob Enderle said number of cameras on the apparatus leads his to believe it is a self-driving test vehicle, not a mapping car. “Too many cameras,” said Enderle. “It has cameras that are angled down at all four corners of the vehicle.”
Enderle said not having such a permit wouldn’t rule out Apple attempting to develop a driverless vehicle. “It can be a partnership. You know, they have partnerships with a variety of the carmakers,” said Enderle. “Just because they’re leasing the car doesn’t necessarily mean it’s their project.”
An Apple spokesperson Tuesday refused to comment on the speculation it might be developing a driverless car.
As to why the vehicle doesn’t resemble other self -driving prototype cars we’ve seen, Enderle said many different prototypes will be tested, including systems that can be retrofitted on existing vehicles.
“By 2020, we’ll be up to our armpits in these things. We’re on a very fast path to self-driving cars,” he said.