Apple is working on skid recovery and automatic safety systems for self-driving cars

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 2019
Apple's self-driving vehicle technology has the potential to make being a passenger even safer than before, with the company coming up with ways to determine how fast the car is moving along a road without using traditional sensing technology, as well as how the wheels slip in hazardous conditions.

The testbed for a self-driving vehicle as part of Apple's 'Project Titan'
The testbed for a self-driving vehicle as part of Apple's 'Project Titan'


Almost all drivers rely on the speedometer of a car to know how fast they are traveling, as well as the general feel of how the vehicle moves advising whether the driver should pay more care and attention. Wet or icy roads handle differently from dry versions, and while a driver may expect a vehicle to behave in a specific way normally, under such conditions the effects of turning the steering wheel may have to be exaggerated to achieve the desired effect.

Add in the variables in tire compliance, directional stiffness, the size of the tyre, temperature, pressure, and car load among other elements, and it becomes a much harder task to manage.

The problem of changing weather and conditions is one shared with self-driving vehicle systems, which feature a plethora of safety systems to ensure those inside the car remain away from harm. Current systems to determine the road-relative velocity include wheel encoders, inertial sensors, and monitoring GPS signals, but Apple deems most of these to be inadequate.

Inertial sensors are easily affected by drift in noisy accelerometers, affecting velocity detection. Global national satellite systems like GPS are also thought to be unreliable for the purpose, due to being jammed by natural structures and by technological means.

In a patent granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, Apple's "Apparatus and method to measure slip and velocity" aims to solve the problem with more sensors, in two different ways.

In the first method, Apple suggests the inclusion of two sensors at the bottom of a vehicle, scanning the road or ground below. By measuring reflected electromagnetic waves from both sensors, a system has the opportunity to generate a pair of "Doppler slopes" which can be used to determine how fast the ground is moving below the vehicle, as well as at what angle.

An example illustration showing part of the calculations for determining the slip angle
An example illustration showing part of the calculations for determining the slip angle


The first data point advises of how fast the car is going. The angle informs the self-driving system of movements outside of what the system expects, like if it is turning around a corner but the sensors reveal it isn't actually turning enough, like on an icy road.

This data can then be compared with other versions from inertial sensors and GPS, to make sure it is correct.

A second version of the system uses beamforming sensors and electromagnetic waves, again pointed at the road and using reflected waves.

In this second case, rather than pointing just vertically, Apple suggests using multiple sets of sensors to point not only down at the road, but also at an angle towards the front of the vehicle. As well as capturing the velocity and slip using a larger measured area, this second version will also produce sensor data for longitudinal and lateral velocities.

Two ways sensors could be mounted to monitor the ground or road
Two ways sensors could be mounted to monitor the ground or road


Again, the data is harvested and compared against other sensors, and ultimately used by the self-driving system to inform its movement decisions.

Apple files numerous patents with the USPTO on a weekly basis, but while the chance of the concepts described appearing in a future product or service isn't guaranteed, the filings do indicate areas of interest for the iPhone maker's research and development efforts.

Apple has put considerable resources towards "Project Titan," the name used for its automotive efforts. While originally thought to revolve around producing an Apple-branded car, the project has changed focus over the years towards creating self-driving vehicle systems, which Apple has been putting to the test via a fleet of vehicles in California.

Despite seemingly moving away from a complete vehicle, some reports have suggested a car could still be in development, like the recent discovery Apple hired Tesla engineering VP Michael Schwekutsch for potential work on a vehicle's powertrain.

Other self driving-related patents and applications include one where a car's sensors could be made to capture data on points of interest for drivers, the use of gesture controls to move autonomous vehicles, using augmented reality to show the road ahead and other information on a windscreen, inter-vehicle communications with other self-driving systems, and the ability to summon and pay for travel in a self-driving taxi using a mobile device.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,648member
    Ah, ground radar, like planes do.
    I would choose to improve the inertial sensors, maybe use different technology (because such systems can be of very high quality), instead of adding more sensors to add to the confusion.
    Things like radar have surprising difficult reflection patterns; they should ask Hollands Signaal about the goalkeeper and firing rounds on the refection of water (while thinking it was a real target).
    That's why it is also a bad idea to use LIDAR (*) to ‘see the road’ because it gives a totaly deformed picture - which is unclear how deformed exactly - and has to be rectified.
    Humans are quite good at using an other type of electromagnetic waves (to make it sound very pompous, so it can be included in an ‘apparatus’ patent): light. Maybe interesting to use that as ‘locational reference’.


    (*) LIDAR is also not ‘advised’ because it puts holes in retinas and camera sensors (CCDs)
    edited April 2019
  • Reply 2 of 15
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,028member
    My problem with under the car ground sensors is dirt. How are they going to assure that these will remain clean? Even putting them behind sapphire, or diamond, won’t ensure a crack or starring won’t occur from fast moving pebbles shot up from the ground. We all hear that at times. I’m sure they’re thinking about this. But if you ever look under a car, you’ll see how covered with muck it can get.
    cornchipSpamSandwich
  • Reply 3 of 15
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,246member
    melgross said:
    My problem with under the car ground sensors is dirt. How are they going to assure that these will remain clean? Even putting them behind sapphire, or diamond, won’t ensure a crack or starring won’t occur from fast moving pebbles shot up from the ground. We all hear that at times. I’m sure they’re thinking about this. But if you ever look under a car, you’ll see how covered with muck it can get.
    I live in MN and this is a huge issue here. Several times this winter, safety systems like blind spot detection got disabled on my car because they were covered in ice. Not to mention the fact that I routinely have to guess where the lanes are and end up just driving where the wheel ruts are during snowstorms. Driving around phoenix is one thing, but making a self driving car that can handle rain storms and snowstorms is an entirely different animal.
    cornchipcgWerks
  • Reply 4 of 15
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,856member

    Apple is working on skid recovery and automatic safety systems for self-driving cars


    ... But not the self driving cars themselves...  ;)
  • Reply 5 of 15
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,164member
    Of course they're working on skid control and safety systems. Every autonomous system provider and testbed either already does or will be. 
    edited April 2019 SpamSandwichchemengin
  • Reply 6 of 15
    LatkoLatko Posts: 398member
    OMG if that giant camera armada is testimony of Apple’s accomplishments they’re somewhere in the mid-80’s of EV tech
    edited April 2019
  • Reply 7 of 15
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,164member
    Latko said:
    OMG if that giant camera armada is testimony of Apple’s accomplishments they’re somewhere in the mid-80’s of EV tech
    They're using a standard LiDAR array with gps, cameras, etc, same as many other companies, for this stage of autonomous software testing. 
  • Reply 8 of 15
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    gatorguy said:
    Latko said:
    OMG if that giant camera armada is testimony of Apple’s accomplishments they’re somewhere in the mid-80’s of EV tech
    They're using a standard LiDAR array with gps, cameras, etc, same as many other companies, for this stage of autonomous software testing. 
    Should probably be noted that Tesla’s autonomous system isn’t relying on an array including LIDAR and Musk has stated their system will probably achieve full driverless status faster because of their mostly camera based array of sensors.

    He’s still anticipating self-driving this year:  http://www.thedetroitbureau.com/2019/02/musk-says-tesla-to-have-driverless-car-ready-this-year/
    edited April 2019
  • Reply 9 of 15
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,164member
    gatorguy said:
    Latko said:
    OMG if that giant camera armada is testimony of Apple’s accomplishments they’re somewhere in the mid-80’s of EV tech
    They're using a standard LiDAR array with gps, cameras, etc, same as many other companies, for this stage of autonomous software testing. 
    Should probably be noted that Tesla’s autonomous system isn’t relying on an array including LIDAR and Musk has stated their system will probably achieve full driverless status faster because of their mostly camera based array of sensors.

    He’s still anticipating self-driving this year:  http://www.thedetroitbureau.com/2019/02/musk-says-tesla-to-have-driverless-car-ready-this-year/
    Agreed, but Tesla is an entirely different case, and while I said "many other companies" I did not say EVERY other company. Tesla is a bit farther along than Apple. 
    edited April 2019
  • Reply 10 of 15
    hentaiboyhentaiboy Posts: 1,244member
    Having sensors is one thing, knowing how to use them is a different matter. Car control is a complex science that even vehicle manufacturers that have been around for over a century struggle with. 
  • Reply 11 of 15
    chabigchabig Posts: 640member
    Radar isn't affected by dirt. Many cars on the road right now already have radar and ultrasonic sensors on their bumpers. Putting it underneath the car wouldn't necessarily be any worse. But let's give the engineers at Apple some credit. I'm sure they realize that there is dirt underneath the car and will make it work regardless.
  • Reply 12 of 15
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,164member
    chabig said:
    Radar isn't affected by dirt. Many cars on the road right now already have radar and ultrasonic sensors on their bumpers. Putting it underneath the car wouldn't necessarily be any worse. But let's give the engineers at Apple some credit. I'm sure they realize that there is dirt underneath the car and will make it work regardless.
    ...or just not do it. Apple has patented other things that didn't work out in practice. 
  • Reply 13 of 15
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,719member
    cornchip said:

    Apple is working on skid recovery and automatic safety systems for self-driving cars


    ... But not the self driving cars themselves...  ;)
    Sounds OK if we leave out that 'for self-driving cars' part.
    Hopefully, they are just working on a good EV, but I'm pretty sure I'll be disappointed.
  • Reply 14 of 15
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,719member

    SpamSandwich said:
    Should probably be noted that Tesla’s autonomous system isn’t relying on an array including LIDAR and Musk has stated their system will probably achieve full driverless status faster because of their mostly camera based array of sensors. 
    And, it's totally shitty in terms of 'self-driving' capability... and that's not saying much (as even the best are pretty bad).
    Of course, Musk also thinks he's going to Mars. YMMV
  • Reply 15 of 15
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,719member

    chabig said:
    But let's give the engineers at Apple some credit. I'm sure they realize that there is dirt underneath the car and will make it work regardless.
    Well, the Nest engineers used a transistor (instead of a relay) in their thermostat, and pushed firmware updates during the winter.
    The engineers where my dad worked once showed him the designs of a fire-truck (and he told them some major problem it would have just from the prints) ... but they wouldn't believe him, and had to build it anyway, ending up proving my dad right. LOL
    Unfortunately, sometimes engineers aren't the brightest bulbs in the common sense department. So, best not to assume.
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