Apple working on retractable bumpers for Apple Car

Posted:
in General Discussion edited November 2019
Apple's 'Project Titan' autonomous vehicle could have retractable bumpers on both ends of the vehicle, contracting away to make parking in confined spaces easier, but automatically extending outwards to protect the car while it is being driven in traffic.




Bumpers are an important part of a vehicle, giving a level of protection from minor and major impacts before having to rely on the rest of the car's frame and bodywork to take any blows. For smaller knocks, bumpers can give vehicles a softer blow than if they didn't otherwise exist, and potentially eliminating any damage to the car altogether.

The construction of a bumper can take a few forms, including a simple metal beam that stretches across the width of a vehicle to more complex designs. A lightweight version uses a plastic bumper cover that has a cellular plastic structure, one that can deform and crush to absorb the impact before any real damage is made to the car's frame.

Apple believes it has come up with another design, in a patent published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday titled "Extendable bumpers for vehicles." In the filing, Apple suggests how an inflatable bladder behind the bumper could inflate and deflate to allow the bumper to move in and out from a so-called Apple Car.

There are a few reasons this could be useful. First, the use of an air cushion behind the bumper could provide some form of impact protection that provides some give, but without necessarily resulting in any damage to the bumper itself, as with the plastic cell structure technique.

The ability to retract the bumper could help with moving the vehicle as well, giving a few inches extra room at the front and rear at advantageous times. For example, a tight turn with a wall or another obstacle that may just impact the bumper could stop being a problem if the bumper can move itself out of the way.

Shifting the bumper could also be useful for parking, as it gives a bit more breathing room from other vehicles behind and in front when on the road, as the car becomes slightly shorter. Lastly, it could also be useful for appearance, providing clean lines around the front and rear ends.

Patent filing illustrations of the recessed bladder and a spring to aid bumper retraction
Patent filing illustrations of the recessed bladder and a spring to aid bumper retraction


In Apple's filing, the bumper is movable between extended and retracted positions, and is fitted with an inflatable structure behind it. Inflating and deflating the structure shifts the bumper in and out of the vehicle between the two positions, while a flexible hinge around the edge keeps the bumper cover connected to the body.

The inflatable structure could be kept within a hollowed interior section, enabling the bumper cover to align with the body portion. The bumper itself can be rigid, have a u-shaped cross-section, and even support linear sliding when moving between the two positions.

Inflation would be via a valve for both allowing air to enter and to leave, but Apple suggests the bumper could be biased to move more easily towards a retracted position, possibly including a spring mechanism. It is likely this is so that the bumper could be retracted without effort, in cases such as a car being turned off after parking, as it would not waste extra resources.

Apple files numerous patent applications with the USPTO on a weekly basis, but while there is no guarantee Apple will be using the submitted ideas in a future product or service, it does show areas of interest for the company's research and development efforts.

"Project Titan" is the catch-all title used to cover Apple's automotive activities. Originally thought to be the development of an Apple-branded car, the project has seemingly pivoted towards self-driving vehicle systems, though the continuing appearance of car design patents and other related reports suggests vehicle development is still underway.

Some patents and applications under vehicle design changes include battery-filled floors, reinforced wide-opening doors without the central door pillar, multiple ways to create configurable sunroof systems, smart seatbelts, and a light-based privacy system. Others under the same banner relate to how vehicles move, such as gesture controls, automated point of interest capture systems, inter-car communications, and self-driving confidence systems.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 26
    Fins
  • Reply 2 of 26
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,921member

    Pretty interesting. As a designer/"car guy" I've been thinking about this for years. It wasn't that long ago that bumpers were intended more for protecting the bodywork of the car than for being a critical part of the safety systems. Now that the bumpers are fully integrated into the bodywork, I've been wondering when the "decorative" bumpers will make a comeback. I can see this idea from Apple as being a little of both. 

    I previously had a 1990 BMW 325is which had the "Series2" updated bumpers - until someone pulled out in front of me, totaling it. To replace it, the best thing I could find (in my price range) was an '87es. It's a "Series1" with the older USA "diving board" bumpers, which stick out a good 12cm or so (and that's just the metal part, there's another 5-7cm of plastic between the metal & the bodywork). So the thing about these bumpers is that they are mounted on sealed hydraulic springs. They can be "tucked" by drilling a hole in the springs and releasing all the hydraulic fluid, then pushing the springs in. This gives the car a less awkward, more sleek & modern look & is far cheaper than installing the "Euro" bumpers. 

    But then I got to thinking - what if you created an adjustable spring? That way you could have the best of both worlds. Original look & tucked look if you want. Or perhaps bumper out while driving and bumper tucked while parked!

    Pretty cool Apple's thinking about these things too. Can't wait to se what they come out with.
    JWSC
  • Reply 3 of 26
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,845member
    Wish the car companies would go back to bumpers that didn't cost at least a thousand bucks to repair for what used to be minor dings.
    TomEStrangeDaysstompy
  • Reply 4 of 26
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,314member
    Picture of a failed automotive design? Is this AI’s subtle take on the future of any Apple car?
    cornchipplype11jony0
  • Reply 5 of 26
    Overcomplicated. Moving pieces will break over time adding costly repairs on older vehicles. Keep it simple stupid!
  • Reply 6 of 26
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,313member
    With spikes!
    chasm
  • Reply 7 of 26
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,313member
    Overcomplicated. Moving pieces will break over time adding costly repairs on older vehicles. Keep it simple stupid!
    So I suppose your car is all manual doors, windows, and locks? Or have you accepted added complication for value-add?
    fastasleep
  • Reply 8 of 26
    CarmboCarmbo Posts: 26unconfirmed, member
    Even if Apple wants to introduce some innovative bits and pieces, reliability out of the gate is critical to Apple's success as an auto designer - no doubt the making part would be contracted out. As such it needs to take care to not introduce a system that it isn't certain it can deliver trouble-free. If 900 cars roll off the line with everything working flawlessly for a long time but 100 cars have issues in abundance, that's a fail. No one will talk about the 900 examples that are doing fine. The focus - justifiably - will be on those 100 cars with issues. 

    Ease into innovations, introducing them fully realised as something that can be reliably reproduced in volume. 

    Of course Apple wants to be seen as a game-changing entrant but at the same time if that's a game-changing entrant that can't consistently deliver a reliable device, that's simply not going to cut it. If that's the way this is going, my recommendation is to stop right now and avoid a full-on disaster. Many of us love our gadgets but when it comes to cars, reliability is crucial. Moreover it has to be reliability evident over a long period of time, not just through the initial warranty period. 

    It comes down to balancing innovation with delivering viable product consistently. It might mean not going all-in on the innovation front but you need to know when not to do something. 

  • Reply 9 of 26
    1348513485 Posts: 250member
    Genius. As this spy shot shows, they're re-introducing horsecollar grills...and naming vehicles after a sole male heir. Jony's last design comes to fruition.
  • Reply 10 of 26
    sunman42sunman42 Posts: 195member
    Was the Edsel photo meant to make a statement?

    Many people need bumpers for parallel parking.
    Ecky-Thumpstompy
  • Reply 11 of 26
    tundraboy said:
    Wish the car companies would go back to bumpers that didn't cost at least a thousand bucks to repair for what used to be minor dings.
    Those bumpers weren't integrated safety features.  They were basically decorations masquerading as safety features... though there was very little safe about them.  We learned that and moved on from them.  As for this rumored Apple idea?  For a safety device it seems to be a bad idea.  Why introduce an unnecessary failure point just for a perceived convenience that isn't even that convenient.   If it's decorative, covering a safety substructure then I guess it's like judging a large rear wing vs a discrete spoiler.  If a decorative movable bumper fails, it fails.  It doesn't compromise safety.  
  • Reply 12 of 26
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,569moderator
    Images of the Porsche rear spoiler pops into my head, which adjusts its height, and thus the amount of downforce applied, with the speed the vehicle is moving.   Can’t see why a similar approach couldn’t be taken with a safety mechanism we call a bumper; might be better named if it evolves into a crash protection system that changes shape or intelligently directs forces into crumble zone components.   
    edited July 2019 cornchip
  • Reply 13 of 26
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,648member
    Looking at the date, it must be April Fool’s Day ...
  • Reply 14 of 26
    Images of the Porsche rear spoiler pops into my head, which adjusts its height, and thus the amount of downforce applied, with the speed the vehicle is moving.   Can’t see why a similar approach couldn’t be taken with a safety mechanism we call a bumper; might be better named if it evolves into a crash protection system that changes shape or intelligently directs forces into crumble zone components.   
    What you're describing for a safety component doesn't work.  The type of speed that would be required for what you're describing could only be achieved by an explosion.  The type of explosion required to power a car's airbags for example.  That's a destructive explosion.    Even if you could get a reusable system, you're still not getting "crash protection system that changes shape (that fast) or intelligently directs (how would it possible change the direction of the forces) forces into crumble zone components".  Essentially what you're saying is a safety component that can redirect a force from a potential 2 ton object into a specific zone.  If we're going to branch our conversation into the realm of fantasy then anything is possible.  But a reality based  conversation acknowledges the limitations of physics at a minimum.  
  • Reply 15 of 26
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,313member
    Images of the Porsche rear spoiler pops into my head, which adjusts its height, and thus the amount of downforce applied, with the speed the vehicle is moving.   Can’t see why a similar approach couldn’t be taken with a safety mechanism we call a bumper; might be better named if it evolves into a crash protection system that changes shape or intelligently directs forces into crumble zone components.   
    What you're describing for a safety component doesn't work.  The type of speed that would be required for what you're describing could only be achieved by an explosion.  The type of explosion required to power a car's airbags for example.  That's a destructive explosion.    Even if you could get a reusable system, you're still not getting "crash protection system that changes shape (that fast) or intelligently directs (how would it possible change the direction of the forces) forces into crumble zone components".  Essentially what you're saying is a safety component that can redirect a force from a potential 2 ton object into a specific zone.  If we're going to branch our conversation into the realm of fantasy then anything is possible.  But a reality based  conversation acknowledges the limitations of physics at a minimum.  
    Welp that's it, guys, no more innovation is possible -- a guy on the internet said it can't be done. Shut 'er down... 
  • Reply 16 of 26
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,506member
    Images of the Porsche rear spoiler pops into my head, which adjusts its height, and thus the amount of downforce applied, with the speed the vehicle is moving.   Can’t see why a similar approach couldn’t be taken with a safety mechanism we call a bumper; might be better named if it evolves into a crash protection system that changes shape or intelligently directs forces into crumble zone components.   
    What you're describing for a safety component doesn't work.  The type of speed that would be required for what you're describing could only be achieved by an explosion.  The type of explosion required to power a car's airbags for example.  That's a destructive explosion.    Even if you could get a reusable system, you're still not getting "crash protection system that changes shape (that fast) or intelligently directs (how would it possible change the direction of the forces) forces into crumble zone components".  Essentially what you're saying is a safety component that can redirect a force from a potential 2 ton object into a specific zone.  If we're going to branch our conversation into the realm of fantasy then anything is possible.  But a reality based  conversation acknowledges the limitations of physics at a minimum.  
    Welp that's it, guys, no more innovation is possible -- a guy on the internet said it can't be done. Shut 'er down... 
    He wasn't commenting on Apple's patent application. He was responding to suggestion from Radar for "value added". 
    FileMakerFeller1STnTENDERBITS
  • Reply 17 of 26
    sirozhasirozha Posts: 801member
    Excellent news. Now all that is left to do is to design and build the actual car. We are almost there, Tim. 
  • Reply 18 of 26
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 1,481member
    Carmbo said:
    Even if Apple wants to introduce some innovative bits and pieces, reliability out of the gate is critical to Apple's success as an auto designer - no doubt the making part would be contracted out. As such it needs to take care to not introduce a system that it isn't certain it can deliver trouble-free. If 900 cars roll off the line with everything working flawlessly for a long time but 100 cars have issues in abundance, that's a fail. No one will talk about the 900 examples that are doing fine. The focus - justifiably - will be on those 100 cars with issues. 

    Ease into innovations, introducing them fully realised as something that can be reliably reproduced in volume. 

    Of course Apple wants to be seen as a game-changing entrant but at the same time if that's a game-changing entrant that can't consistently deliver a reliable device, that's simply not going to cut it. If that's the way this is going, my recommendation is to stop right now and avoid a full-on disaster. Many of us love our gadgets but when it comes to cars, reliability is crucial. Moreover it has to be reliability evident over a long period of time, not just through the initial warranty period. 

    It comes down to balancing innovation with delivering viable product consistently. It might mean not going all-in on the innovation front but you need to know when not to do something. 

    Uh. That's kind of Apple's thing. Innovating, but with rigorous quality control. Not always first with every feature, but first to make it work right.
  • Reply 19 of 26
    I invite Apple to bring a prototype here for cold-weather testing (Siberian flyover country).

    If they can make it work at -20F with heavy slush frozen under the vehicle, I'll applaud them.

  • Reply 20 of 26
    CarmboCarmbo Posts: 26unconfirmed, member
    AppleZulu said:
    Carmbo said:
    Even if Apple wants to introduce some innovative bits and pieces, reliability out of the gate is critical to Apple's success as an auto designer - no doubt the making part would be contracted out. As such it needs to take care to not introduce a system that it isn't certain it can deliver trouble-free. If 900 cars roll off the line with everything working flawlessly for a long time but 100 cars have issues in abundance, that's a fail. No one will talk about the 900 examples that are doing fine. The focus - justifiably - will be on those 100 cars with issues. 

    Ease into innovations, introducing them fully realised as something that can be reliably reproduced in volume. 

    Of course Apple wants to be seen as a game-changing entrant but at the same time if that's a game-changing entrant that can't consistently deliver a reliable device, that's simply not going to cut it. If that's the way this is going, my recommendation is to stop right now and avoid a full-on disaster. Many of us love our gadgets but when it comes to cars, reliability is crucial. Moreover it has to be reliability evident over a long period of time, not just through the initial warranty period. 

    It comes down to balancing innovation with delivering viable product consistently. It might mean not going all-in on the innovation front but you need to know when not to do something. 

    Uh. That's kind of Apple's thing. Innovating, but with rigorous quality control. Not always first with every feature, but first to make it work right.
    Apple has never done anything like a vehicle that is a far, far more complex product than Apple has experience with. It's one thing to swing for the fences with a smart phone, a tablet, a laptop, etc. but with all the systems needed to do a complete vehicle, it's a whole other thing. Of course, just because Apple is working on various concepts does not mean they will all wind up in the launch vehicle. Consider that if doing a laptop keyboard or maybe a cellphone antenna system can go poorly, the potential for ending up with complications is exponentially greater with a ground-breaking tech-laden vehicle. It's a balancing act. Innovate, certainly, but do it with extreme caution because if your product impresses initially yet drives owners crazy, you're going to fail in the automotive industry. There are too many established automakers with highly evolved tech in play for Apple, as a newcomer, to think it will be given a pass if its product isn't quite ready for prime time. 

    If Apple really is trying to develop a complete vehicle, it's a huge gamble. If this is about developing assorted systems to offer up to established automakers, that's less daunting. It's going to be quite interesting to see where this goes over the long haul. 
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