Light-up Apple car seats in 'Project Titan' could tell you to buckle up

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited November 2019
Apple is researching plans for a car lighting system revolving around embedding LEDs, lenses, and fiber-optics throughout the interior, potentially to tell passengers to put on their seatbelt at the start of a journey.




Apple's ongoing automotive efforts under the masthead of "Project Titan" covers a number of areas, with the main visible work revolving around self-driving vehicle systems. At the same time, Apple has continued to come up with new ideas for other elements of the so-called Apple car, including some relating to how the inside of a vehicle appears.

One area of interest is the interior, where the passengers and driver spend most of their time interacting with the vehicle. While current lighting systems can be used for decorative purposes as well as for information, Apple reckons they can be "insufficiently flexible," do not provide enough information to users, or are "not aesthetically pleasing."

In a patent granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday titled "Lighting systems of vehicle seats," Apple suggests some ways a vehicle's interior could be designed to light up in unexpected ways, by taking advantage of light-emitting diodes. Though used more for displays, Apple also suggests employing OLED technology for similar illumination purposes.

The LEDs and OLEDs can be used to light up fibers and other light guides throughout the vehicle, or for larger areas the LEDs can be formed from "thin-film circuitry on a substrate." Either the LEDs will be made directly visible, as currently used, or will be hidden with light channels and fibers used to transport light to where illumination is required.

As part of this, the lighting can be used to illuminate through openings in a cover layer "formed from fabric, leather, or other materials." Lens structures could be used to guide the light through purpose-made openings in the fabric.

While this seems straightforward, Apple's intended application for the technology isn't just for use on the typical panels and dashboard of a vehicle. It is proposed the lighting system could be "integrated into a seat" or door panel.

A variety of patterns that could be illuminated in a seat or other fabric covering using the lighting system
A variety of patterns that could be illuminated in a seat or other fabric covering using the lighting system


Furthermore, Apple's proposal includes using the system to create LED-based displays that can be inserted into practically all soft coverings of a vehicle, being visible only when light is being passed through them. Images in the patent filing suggest the inclusion of arrows and other instructional symbols, text, animations, and even simple patterns for decorative purposes.

When used in concert with embedded sensors, such as capacitive touch sensors, this could allow for a semi-hidden indicator to be turned on and off near a button as confirmation of a setting, or to provide more details about using the controls, like a sliding rectangle to show where the user can slide their finger to change a seat configuration.

To passengers, this could inform how to change the position of their seat, and even to advise passengers to put on their seat belt if it has been removed mid-transit or at the start of a journey.

An example of the kind of lighting symbols in a seat used to locate seat adjustment controls
An example of the kind of lighting symbols in a seat used to locate seat adjustment controls


Apple files numerous patent applications on a weekly basis, and the presence of a filing suggests areas of interest for the company's research and development teams. It does not, however, advise of products and services that are on the horizon, and it isn't guaranteed Apple will use the idea in the future.

This is not the only car-illumination patent Applie has applied for in recent years. In March, Apple proposed the use of fiber optic-based segments both inside the vehicle and externally, producing intricate shapes and other elements in a system that could be embedded inside layer of translucent and transparent polymers, used to hide its presence.

The 2018 "Exterior Lighting and Warning System" used a strip of LEDs around the vehicle to indicate events to other road users, such as whether the brakes were engaged at different levels or signaling an intended maneuver by the self-driving system. This latter concept was explored in another patent filing from the same year.

Apple has also proposed the use of an "Interior lighting system having window with band pass filter coordinated with broad/narrow band light source to provide privacy mode." In theory, this would consist of a glass treatment with a light filter that would allow certain bands of light through and prevent specific bands from being seen on the other side, a concept that would allow the interior lighting to use this blocked band to ensure user privacy.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,641member
    All cars already have a "seat belt not on" warning light that works simply. The problem with all such warning systems (as well as rear center brake lights) is that they work fine until we get used to them and then they're easy to ignore. Knowing Apple, their OLED lights would not be user replaceable. Cars already have pretty good UI that drivers are quite used to. We certainly don't need to make them more complex or more costly with a bunch of OLED lights, ESPECIALLY if they're not user replaceable. I have a problem in my 2003 car where a number of the radio and other dash lights are out due to a faulty non-socketed fuse in the audio system. But it's quite complex to fix (just getting the dash out is complex) and it would cost something like $400 to get those lights working again, which is accomplished by shorting out the fuse (dripping some solder across the terminals). Not worth the cost and effort.
  • Reply 2 of 18
    zoetmb said:
    All cars already have a "seat belt not on" warning light that works simply. 
    My Car has a very loud and annoying beep when I drive more than 200yds without the seatbelt on. You really don't want to go very far with that blaring out.
    I have to admit that I have a seat belt thingy that I can plug in that defeats it. I don't use it on the road but going up farm tracks where there are four gates in half a mile. It is a PITA to have to keep taking the belt on and then off again so frequently but it isn't on the road so who really cares?

    cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 18
    Should I go with:
    What god? Why?
    Or,
    That’s annoying!

    Own a vehicle 10years and most of those sensors/LEDs won’t be working anymore, but something will still be flashing telling you to spend a fortune to get them fixed.
    cornchiplkrupp
  • Reply 4 of 18
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,035member
    These little things are fine, but they aren't going make Apple a major player in the automotive field. I really hope that we see Apple come out with a full automobile. Maybe I'm wrong, but if Tesla can do an excellent job building a reasonably priced car then Apple should be able to make something even better.

    zoetmb said:
    All cars already have a "seat belt not on" warning light that works simply. The problem with all such warning systems (as well as rear center brake lights) is that they work fine until we get used to them and then they're easy to ignore. Knowing Apple, their OLED lights would not be user replaceable. Cars already have pretty good UI that drivers are quite used to. We certainly don't need to make them more complex or more costly with a bunch of OLED lights, ESPECIALLY if they're not user replaceable. I have a problem in my 2003 car where a number of the radio and other dash lights are out due to a faulty non-socketed fuse in the audio system. But it's quite complex to fix (just getting the dash out is complex) and it would cost something like $400 to get those lights working again, which is accomplished by shorting out the fuse (dripping some solder across the terminals). Not worth the cost and effort.
    I can't imagine ignoring the constant warning of not having my seatbelt on when I"m driving over 3(?) MPH. I think there's a simple cable under the seat I could pull to detach that sensor, but I think it would also disconnect my power seats with the heating and cooling, plus I wear my seatbelt so I see no reason to even test that.
    lolliver
  • Reply 6 of 18
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,930member
    My daily is an '87. Virtually all the lights still work. Wonder if that could be said for a 2020 Car in 2052?
  • Reply 7 of 18
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,035member
    cornchip said:
    My daily is an '87. Virtually all the lights still work. Wonder if that could be said for a 2020 Car in 2052?
    1) What does virtually mean in this instance?

    2) Have you had nothing fixed in that time? If so, does that mean that an Car could also have items fixed?

    3) If we're talking about the very first car built by Apple I'd think it would be similar to the original Apple II, Mac, iPod, iPhone or countless other Apple products where many will be very keen to take good care of a product that will likely become a future collectible. 
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 18
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,557member
    Should I go with:
    What god? Why?
    Or,
    That’s annoying!

    Own a vehicle 10years and most of those sensors/LEDs won’t be working anymore, but something will still be flashing telling you to spend a fortune to get them fixed.
    My wife and I bought our first new car in 1973, a 1973 Pontiac LeMans. That was the first year seatbelts were required accessories and that Pontiac of ours was equipped with seatbelts  (just lap belts actually) that had to be buckled in order for the car to start. Needless to say those lap belts got buckled and shoved as far back under the seat as possible. As time went on the politicians started passing seatbelt laws with associated fines if you were stopped and weren’t wearing them. I wonder how much protecting our safety has added to the price of an automobile these days. I bet it’s substantial.
    edited November 2019 cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 18
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,930member
    Soli said:
    cornchip said:
    My daily is an '87. Virtually all the lights still work. Wonder if that could be said for a 2020 Car in 2052?
    1) What does virtually mean in this instance?

    2) Have you had nothing fixed in that time? If so, does that mean that an Car could also have items fixed?

    3) If we're talking about the very first car built by Apple I'd think it would be similar to the original Apple II, Mac, iPod, iPhone or countless other Apple products where many will be very keen to take good care of a product that will likely become a future collectible. 
    woo snippy snippy.

    1) a couple need to be replaced, a couple not wired up for different reasons. The main one that's out however is the speedometer light (all other dash lights work. the clusters on these particular cars tend to be a little flakey, but can be easily repaired, which I intend to do. I had it done on my last one, but someone pulled out in front of me on my way to work spring '18. it was a '90.

    2) not much, I've only had it a little over a year. what's your gut feeling on that?

    3) well no crap. lots of cars are collectable. Like (both of) mine.
  • Reply 10 of 18
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,035member
    cornchip said:
    Soli said:
    cornchip said:
    My daily is an '87. Virtually all the lights still work. Wonder if that could be said for a 2020 Car in 2052?
    1) What does virtually mean in this instance?

    2) Have you had nothing fixed in that time? If so, does that mean that an Car could also have items fixed?

    3) If we're talking about the very first car built by Apple I'd think it would be similar to the original Apple II, Mac, iPod, iPhone or countless other Apple products where many will be very keen to take good care of a product that will likely become a future collectible. 
    woo snippy snippy.

    1) a couple need to be replaced, a couple not wired up for different reasons. The main one that's out however is the speedometer light (all other dash lights work. the clusters on these particular cars tend to be a little flakey, but can be easily repaired, which I intend to do. I had it done on my last one, but someone pulled out in front of me on my way to work spring '18. it was a '90.

    2) not much, I've only had it a little over a year. what's your gut feeling on that?

    3) well no crap. lots of cars are collectable. Like (both of) mine.
    Not meant to come across snippy. Just curiousity about an old car.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 18
    1348513485 Posts: 273member
    I'm old enough to have purchased a whole bunch of cars, usually slightly or mostly used, ranging from Mercedes, Honda, Ford, Chevy to even a 1957 Maico (look that one up...). Dashboard electricals have always been problematic, and in the original lifetimes and in restorations I've spent many aggravating hours-days-weeks getting the dash panels lit back up. The old way is most definitely not better than the current LED way. Of course making dash panels modular with the release of a couple screws or clips might just make the whole issue easy no matter the age of the vehicle. Just a thought. 

    I'm not sure about light-up seats, though. Not every idea is a good idea.



  • Reply 12 of 18
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,035member
    13485 said:
    I'm old enough to have purchased a whole bunch of cars, usually slightly or mostly used, ranging from Mercedes, Honda, Ford, Chevy to even a 1957 Maico (look that one up...). Dashboard electricals have always been problematic, and in the original lifetimes and in restorations I've spent many aggravating hours-days-weeks getting the dash panels lit back up. The old way is most definitely not better than the current LED way. Of course making dash panels modular with the release of a couple screws or clips might just make the whole issue easy no matter the age of the vehicle. Just a thought. 

    I'm not sure about light-up seats, though. Not every idea is a good idea.
    I recently sold an off-road vehicle from the early 1970s. I had it for 5 years and made 20% on it, but it still cost me a little with some minor upgrades, repairs, tag, title, and insurance over the years. None or the dash instruments worked and I didn’t care. I look forward to LED-based systems but having that be more modular would be ideal.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 18
    mobirdmobird Posts: 721member
    I'd like to see Apple get into the automobile infotainment system business and license the systems for every major automotive manufacturer. Custom to the specific manufacturer's vehicles but at the same time creating a robust system industry wide. I know that would require embedding Apple engineers with every automotive licensee but just imagine the  "Infotainment Made By Apple"...
    The upfront cost would be massive but Apple has the cash and they could eliminate the underwriting of California housing projects and use that as seed money for the cost of entry...
    Gentlemen Start Your Engines!!
  • Reply 14 of 18
    How sad to have to tell someone to buckle up. It’s common sense. 
    lolliver
  • Reply 15 of 18
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,306member
    How sad to have to tell someone to buckle up. It’s common sense. 
    It wasn't before the 80's/90's when most US states had to enact laws to require it.
  • Reply 16 of 18
    macguimacgui Posts: 2,291member
    I drove cars without seat belts and metal dashboards. Since my first exposure to seat belts, I've never not warn them (MillSpeak?) except to move my car out and back in the garage by a few feet.

    I can't recall ever hearing the seat belt buzzer, ever. But there is an annoying buzzer when moving the A/T shifter through Reverse, in either direction. It's about .5sec long or less, but annoying. There should be a .15sec delay!

    My firm belief is that everybody operating a vehicle around others (peds or vehicles) must wear seatbelts. No free will on that except for the rare 'antique' vehicle that never had them, and driving should be then restricted.

    So, if Apple wants to improve driver's awareness and encourage them to use properly use seat and shoulder belts they can use sensors to check that they're not being bypassed, (within reason as any system can be gamed). Then instead of their proposed alerts, just put some pink flashing beacons on the roof of the car indicating belts are not in proper deployment. 5-0 can see this and issue a ticket. Let the insurance agent where applicable, apply additional incentives.
  • Reply 17 of 18
    toddzrxtoddzrx Posts: 247member
    Apple may as well forget about any car plans, they're way too late to market. Porsche, Audi, Mercedes, Volvo, and others are all releasing a wide range of EV's over the next few years and being very public about it. The vast majority of car buyers will go to them before Apple. Besides, do you really think Apple is going to get into not only manufacturing cars, but selling them and maintains them as well? "But, but, but....Tesla!" Tesla only exists because of your US government and the massive grants handed to them. No way will Apple risk its own money to invest in the car business where they aren't going to make anywhere near the profit margin they've come to expect from everything else they design and sell. 
  • Reply 18 of 18
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,306member
    toddzrx said:
    Apple may as well forget about any car plans, they're way too late to market. Porsche, Audi, Mercedes, Volvo, and others are all releasing a wide range of EV's over the next few years and being very public about it. The vast majority of car buyers will go to them before Apple. Besides, do you really think Apple is going to get into not only manufacturing cars, but selling them and maintains them as well? "But, but, but....Tesla!" Tesla only exists because of your US government and the massive grants handed to them. No way will Apple risk its own money to invest in the car business where they aren't going to make anywhere near the profit margin they've come to expect from everything else they design and sell. 
    "PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They're not going to just walk in."
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