In a recently-published research paper, Apple computer scientists have come up with a new method that can be used for the betterment of self-driving technology. This method enables the system to detect pedestrians and cyclists. They have also given a rare glimpse into the U.S. technology giant’s work in the field.

The paper was published on 17th November in renowned online journal arXiv. In this paper, two Apple researchers, Yin Zhou, and Oncel Tuzel have discussed their progression in the technology that detects 3-D objects.

The current object detection systems mainly rely on a technology named “LiDAR”. LiDAR basically works by shining light onto a surface and then measuring the time taken by the light to return. This helps to figure out how far an object is and it creates an image of its shape as well.

But LiDAR alone without the help of an additional camera cannot properly detect comparatively smaller objects that are far away. Apple has made a point that LiDAR and the camera-based solution can turn out to be really difficult to be deployed in certain complicated situations. They said it could be “more sensitive to sensor failure.”

Apple has suggested the LiDAR-only detection method that they dub “VoxelNet”. This method works by using complex computer vision and artificial intelligence.

Apple claims to have it tested in a computer-simulated situation. They are yet to test it on a real car. The researchers though have claimed that VoxelNet “outperforms the state-of-the-art LiDAR-based 3-D detection methods by a large margin.”

Apple has been relatively quiet on self-driving cars beyond a few vague comments from Chief Executive Tim Cook. Back in August, Cook described the project of creating autonomous systems as the “mother of all AI projects” in an earnings call. He also made it clear that Apple is focused on such systems from a “core technology point of view”. With this new research, it appears he wasn’t all words at that time. Apple may not build an actual car right now. They are solely concentrated on creating the key software that will help the driverless vehicles, for time being.

The Californian authorities have granted the permit allowing Apple to test self-driving cars, earlier this year.

What do you think about driverless cars? Are you excited about this new project of Apple?
Do let us know in the comments section below.

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