However, I have been noticing something weird with these Dodge Caravans and the locations that they frequent. Apple discloses on its website where the vans will be driven in two week increments. The vans have never been to Connecticut. However, the vans very frequently visit much more rural areas such as Kansas, Idaho, South Dakota, and Wyoming. In addition, there are states where these vans are found all the time – such as Louisiana and Nevada (and we are talking pretty extensive coverage in those states). If the goal is to capture business fronts and other items on busy roads for a version of Street View, spending a lot of time in Wyoming and skipping Connecticut is odd. In addition, focusing on a few states, while ignoring other states is weird. It got me thinking.
If you look at the states that have enacted autonomous vehicle legislation, I see some overlap with the areas where these Dodge Caravans most frequently visit. Nevada and Louisiana allow autonomous vehicles, two states where these vans are routinely found. I suspect the Dodge Caravans are being used to collect data for autonomous driving. Specifically, they are collecting additional data in states where Apple will be able to test autonomous vehicles. This explains why they have never come to Connecticut (autonomous vehicles are not allowed), but spend all of their time in other states. The Dodge Caravans will end up being Apple’s way of establishing a test fleet of self-driving cars tasked with improving the company’s machine learning capabilities for autonomous driving.