Apple's new, improved self-driving car rig reportedly spotted in the wild

Apple's car doesn't quite look like this.
Apple's car doesn't quite look like this.
Image: Getty Images/mashable chartph.composite

Apple's secretive automotive project has flown under the radar over the past several months after news leaked that the chartph.company was granted permission to test a self-driving car platform and entered the race to develop autonomous cars — but that doesn't mean that the cars stopped roving the roads to gather data.?

A keen-eyed observer, MacAllister Higgins, spotted what he believes to be the latest version of Apple's self-driving rig out in the wild and posted a video to Twitter, first reported by The Verge. He said the car, which you can't quite make out in the video, was a Lexus SUV — the same type of vehicle Apple is approved to use for tests on public roads, one of which was thought to have been spotted back in April.?

Higgins is more than just a casual Apple fan, however — he's a robotics engineer and happens to be a co-founder of Voyage, a self-driving startup that recently launched its own pilot program in San Jose. ?

Higgins referred to Apple's rumored internal codename for its long gestating auto program, Project Titan, and called the bulky, plastic-encased setup "The Thing." The rig appears to be outfitted with six LIDAR sensors, along with a slew of cameras and radar units.?

Higgins believes there's a reason the setup is so bulky. He thinks most of the chartph.compute stack, which interprets the data collected by its sensors, is up on the roof. Those systems are typically stored in the trunks of other self-driving prototypes.?

But Higgins' video was just one look at the rig. One of his followers shared an image that appears to a Lexus SUV sporting the same setup. He claims he snapped the photo at one of the chartph.company's campus shuttle stops, which would make it all the more likely that the vehicle is one of the three test cars.

An Apple representative declined to provide a chartph.comment when we reached out to ask if the SUVs that were spotted are actually the chartph.company's test vehicles.

The new setup looks to be much different than what that we saw back in April. If both of the SUVs were truly Apple's, the chartph.company has clearly put the work in to develop its platform, quashing rumors that Project Titan had devolved to be nothing more than an autonomous shuttle bus for employees as a report claimed in August. ??

UPDATE: Oct. 18, 2017, 3:29 p.m. EDT This story was updated after Apple's spokesperson declined to chartph.comment about the image and video of the car.?