Early this year, we reported sightings of Apple-owned minivans roaming the streets of San Francisco with large cameras mounted on the roof. The cameras turned out to be LiDAR sensors, which use laser-based technology to create mapping imagery. Apple’s use of these vans is likely tied to their interest in bolstering their mapping software. A recent acquisition by Apple may improve their mapping capabilities far beyond the competition’s.
It was confirmed yesterday that Apple purchased Coherent Navigation, a San Francisco-based GPS firm. One area of focus for Coherent was “High Integrity GPS,” which can reportedly provide location information accurate to within centimeters. The technology combines GPS satellite information with signals from low-earth satellites owned by voice and data provider Iridium (a partner of Coherent.)
MacRumors reported on Sunday that several of Coherent’s employees, including CEO Paul Lego and co-founders William Bencze and Brett Ledvina, had recently begun working at Apple. The Coherent Navigation website has also been recently taken down.
While it’s unclear exactly what the purchase will mean for Apple, improved accuracy and mapping capabilities for the Apple Maps app is a given. Some reports theorize some more extravagant uses for the purchase – perhaps for developing autonomous driving capabilities for a self-driving Apple car. When approached for comment, Apple issued the same standard statement they issue every time they purchase smaller companies: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”