Apple working on headlight system that could highlight road hazards for drivers

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Apple is considering ways to make drivers more aware of potential road hazards, including headlights that can single out road elements that the driver needs to be aware of, and a heads-up display that can highlight pedestrians and other items of interest on a car's windscreen.




Published on Thursday by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the patent application for "System and Method for Light and Image Projection" primarily deals with assisting the driver of a vehicle to better understand the road ahead of them. While existing warning systems use sensors to detect dangers, such as drifting between lanes or proximity to other road users, and providing a basic alarm as a warning, Apple's systems instead aim to highlight things in front of the vehicle with a purely visual system.

All of the implementations start with the vehicle detecting what is ahead of it in the road, and to the sides, using an array of sensors. The data from the sensors are fed into a system that can analyze the street scene, including obstacles, and determine how the vehicle should ideally move as well as the velocity of any moving hazards.




In one implementation of the proposed patent, the system would determine items of interest and then change how they are lit by the vehicle's headlamps. This could include adding an "illuminated indicator" at the point where the object in question is headed, advising to the driver what the item is and where it is going.

Another implementation is to control the contrast of an illuminated scene, namely making sure the driver's view is lit up properly so that everything is visible. Apple argues that some road objects may reflect more than others, or are poorly lit due to being in a rural location without street lighting, or the presence of rain or fog could affect how everything is lit by the headlamps.

Using the sensors again, the headlights can use multiple levels of illumination to more evenly light the scene, with areas that reflect light more easily receiving less light, and areas that are relatively dark receiving more.




Apple also suggests that, while the light level can be adjusted on the road to increase visibility, notifications warning the driver of road elements may not be projected onto the road in public view, but instead as a heads-up display for the driver. While helmets are suggested, it is posited that the notifications could instead be placed onto the windshield, directly in the driver's view.

This could enable more advanced notifications for the driver, such as showing the next step they should take in a set of navigational instructions. In extremely low-light situations, and in cases where the headlamps are not providing enough illumination, the system could highlight road elements that are visible to the sensors, but not to the driver.

One example involves pedestrians, with one image in the filing suggesting they could appear in the display as a form of a skeleton, with dots appearing at the major joints of the person's body to illustrate their movements.




Apple files numerous patent applications on a weekly basis, and there is no guarantee that the concepts described will ever make it into a consumer product.

This system sounds similar to what is being used in Apple's trial of self-driving vehicles, which requires an array of sensors to need to read the road and its potential hazards, in order to continue on a journey. A refocus of "Project Titan" from a rumored car to self-driving systems, the project now involves a fleet of vehicles running on public roads, with Apple also keen to use them in projects such as PAIL, which would ferry employees between offices using autonomous vans.

As the sensors in the patent application and the self-driving cars share the same core features of monitoring the road, it is feasible for such an illumination and warning system to be used in a self-driving car at times when the user wants to drive for themselves. It would potentially offer the benefits of an AI-based driving system in terms of road safety, while still allowing people to drive their cars how they want.

This is not the only patent application relating to Apple's vehicular ambitions. Previous filings include a self-driving system altering its driving style based on the observed stress of passengers, gesture-based controls both within the car and externally, and a system for a self-driving car to notify other drivers of its intentions to perform specific maneuvers.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,415member
    On a very related note level 5 autonomy may be a whole lot closer than we realize. Audi promises a consumer vehicle on the road by 2021. Darn nice looking too and "gaze selection" reportedly works really well. 
    Certainly conceivable Apple may have similar plans. 
    https://www.pocket-lint.com/cars/reviews/audi/142254-audi-aicon-autonomous-car-2021-reality-800km-range-driverless
    edited September 6 Soli
  • Reply 2 of 13
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    I guess the same technology can either be used for autodrive or driver-assist/active safety. So even people who prefer to keep driving manually can benefit from deep learning.
    farmboywatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 13
    My BMW does a lot of this. Night vision can spot pedestrians or animals and they get highlighted with a warning on my heads up display. Adaptive headlights can turn and highlight a person walking on the side of the road.
    JWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 13
    My BMW does a lot of this. Night vision can spot pedestrians or animals and they get highlighted with a warning on my heads up display. Adaptive headlights can turn and highlight a person walking on the side of the road.
    Mercedes has had that technology for a while now and their new Maybach can already project images onto the road like this. 

    I welcome the the competition from Apple in the car space, but while they may be one of the most innovative consumer tech companies it’s going to be tough going up against their equal in the auto industry. 

    https://www.motor1.com/news/235044/mercedes-maybach-headlights-project-symbols/
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 13
    Video is 3 years old



    minicoffeewatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 13
    A small quibble: it’s not a “heads-up” display, but rather, HEAD-up display.

    It’s like saying “lightening” for lightning...
    SpamSandwichwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 13
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 252member
    ascii said:
    I guess the same technology can either be used for autodrive or driver-assist/active safety. So even people who prefer to keep driving manually can benefit from deep learning.
    I’m pleased that Apple is not focusing solely on autonomous navigation.  Some of us weirdos actually enjoy driving from time to time and do not look fondly upon the prospect of being prohibited from driving in the future.  The more cool driver-assist features Apple can implement the better.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 13
    Mercedes has had that technology for a while now and their new Maybach can already project images onto the road like this. 

    I welcome the the competition from Apple in the car space, but while they may be one of the most innovative consumer tech companies it’s going to be tough going up against their equal in the auto industry. 

    https://www.motor1.com/news/235044/mercedes-maybach-headlights-project-symbols/
    While I am a Mercedes fan from way back, and they have brought a lot of firsts to the industry, that particular idea has no advantage over windshield display, and may even be distracting or useless in certain conditions. 

    I don't think potential Mercedes innovations should have any limiting effect on what Apple may do in the field. It's not winner take all.
    minicoffeewatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 13
    farmboy said:
    Mercedes has had that technology for a while now and their new Maybach can already project images onto the road like this. 

    I welcome the the competition from Apple in the car space, but while they may be one of the most innovative consumer tech companies it’s going to be tough going up against their equal in the auto industry. 

    https://www.motor1.com/news/235044/mercedes-maybach-headlights-project-symbols/
    While I am a Mercedes fan from way back, and they have brought a lot of firsts to the industry, that particular idea has no advantage over windshield display, and may even be distracting or useless in certain conditions. 

    I don't think potential Mercedes innovations should have any limiting effect on what Apple may do in the field. It's not winner take all.
    I agree with you. Apple’s patent also describes the limitations of its own method as well. The only point I was making is that these ideas aren’t really new. Mercedes, Audi, GM, etc. are already working on similar technologies among others, and in some cases already bringing them to market. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 13
    My BMW does a lot of this. Night vision can spot pedestrians or animals and they get highlighted with a warning on my heads up display. Adaptive headlights can turn and highlight a person walking on the side of the road.
    Sounds neat, having never seen this in action. How do the swiveling headlights not trick other drivers into thinking you are turning when you are not? If I saw the headlights down the road swivel to my right, for example, I might think you are turning left and so feel safe to make a left as well. And then you t-bone me. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 13
    New leaked photos confirm this:


  • Reply 12 of 13
    This smacks a bit of target fixation. On a motorbike, if you fixate on a hazard as you approach, odds are you gravitate towards it, increasing your chance of hitting it.
    If you come around a corner and see a patch of loose gravel on the road, focusing on that instead of the clear path ahead is a recipe for disaster.
    This is defensive riding 101 and the last thing you want to do. If anything, a hazard ahead should doubly focus attention on a clear course of action to avoid it, not focus all attention on what you're meant to miss.

  • Reply 13 of 13
    While I think it's great to see Apple applying its skills in hardware, software, design and general innovation to this space...I'm still trying to figure out why Apple appears to want to get into the car business.
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