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Another Camera-Equipped Minivan Has Been Spotted in Palo Alto

Remember those camera-toting minivans which were spotted in the Bay Area and in Brooklyn a few weeks back?

Another one has been spotted this past week in Palo Alto. MacRumors has posted a smartphone video which shows a silver minivan with the tell-tale camera rig on top and wheel sensors on the side.

silver camera minivan palo alto 1We know even less about this van than we do about the earlier vans, but as you can see in the video below, it was spotted going down a 1-way street next to a park. There’s at least one person at the wheel, and there’s another reported sighting (backed up with a photo) which says that the passenger seat was occupied as well.

What’s more, there’s an unconfirmed sighting in San Diego, thus putting the camera vans in 3 metro areas in the US.

There’s very little in the way of new solid info on just what these vans are doing, but over the past couple weeks numerous leaked rumors have been keeping the blogosphere entertained.

Business insider got the ball rolling last Monday when it shared details from an unnamed Apple employee which said that the smartphone maker was going to give Tesla a run for its money. The WSJ chimed in on Friday with the report that Apple is secretly working to challenge Tesla:

The Cupertino, Calif., company has several hundred employees working secretly toward creating an Apple-branded electric vehicle, according to people familiar with the matter. The project, code-named “Titan,” initially is working on the design of a vehicle that resembles a minivan, one of the people said.

Reuters spoke up on Saturday with their own source which reportedly confirmed the existence of the project and added that one of Apple’s goals was autonomous driving:

"They don’t appear to want a lot of help from carmakers," said the source, who declined to be named.

Apple is gathering advice on parts and production methods, focusing on electric and connected-car technologies, while studying the potential for automated driving, the source said.

And then the Financial Times jumped in with its own sources which confirm much of what the others are saying.

Apple is of course saying nothing on the topic, but I think it’s safe to conclude that Apple has a secret car project in the works.

Whether that Project Titan has anything to do with the minivans driving around, now that’s a different story. Given that similar vans have been spotted in 3 metro areas, it is more likely that the minivan shown below is part of a street-mapping project – just like reader The Commons suggested when I reported on the last sightings a couple weeks ago.



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fjtorres February 16, 2015 um 9:52 am

I’d like to see Apple take a run at Tesla…
…just to see how far back they bounce when they hit the walls of the GigaFactory. 🙂

That thing is going to produce, by itself, as many Li-ion batteries as the rest of the planet combined. And since those batteries will be going into Tesla’s, Toyotas, M-B’s and a whole bunch of other brands of electrics and hybrids, as well as solar and wind power installations and even backup home power, Tesla is going to enjoy the advantage of being both a car builder and a component supplier to other builders. More than competing with Tesla, Apple is likely to end up depending on them.

That said, I think the Apple Car will be announced right alongside the Apple 4K HDTV. 🙂

What Apple *is* doing in cars is looking to get into automotive controls and connectivity systems, extending their CarPlay deeper into the car. The kind of thing Microsoft has been doing since the last century.

Here’s CNET take:

And they are notorious Apple cheerleaders.

Taking on Tesla? Starting now?

Nate Hoffelder February 16, 2015 um 10:06 am


I’ve been following the news on that Gigafactory. Its production is going to be so high that it will either go bust as an insane boondoggle or it will depress the battery market and distort the landscape of the power industry.

fjtorres February 16, 2015 um 11:00 am

It’s Elon Musk.
Which way do you think it’ll go? 🙂

To put it another way: he’s partnered with Panasonic, which already owns 40% of the Li-Ion battery market. To get them to sink $1B for a chunk of the Gigafactory he must’ve shown them some pretty convincing PowerPoint slides…

Starting with $35K pure electric cars and moving on from there.

hob February 16, 2015 um 1:16 pm

Didn’t Elon Musk make all of the Tesla Motors' patents freely open for everybody to use in their products?

Nate Hoffelder February 16, 2015 um 1:33 pm

yep. But that doesn’t mean that they’ll be able to outcompete Elon Musk, just that he’s sharing his paperwork.

Any patent which contains enough technical detail to reverse engineer the tech was written badly.

fjtorres February 16, 2015 um 5:55 pm

Plus, they’d have to pay him to buy the batteries anyway. 😉

fjtorres February 16, 2015 um 6:00 pm

More seriously: most patents can be engineered around.
Plus they only last 17 years.
By the time electrics are mainstream enough for real competition the patents will be worthless anyway.

fjtorres February 16, 2015 um 11:09 am

BTW, Tesla is projecting their 2020 production at 500,000 cars.
For comparison, Honda and Toyota each sell about 400K Accords and Camrys in the US each year, including fleet sales.

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