Apple Car may have radical airbag designs for passenger safety

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in General Discussion
Apple's rumored car could have airbags built within the seatbelts and ceiling cavities for protection in an emergency, a design that could help ensure the safety of passengers when the seats are positioned to face each other.

Deployed car airbags


Apple has, for quite some time, been rumored to be working on its own self-designed vehicle. As part of the supposed Apple Car's creation, Apple has come up with a variety of designs to change the way people drive, including alterations to sunroof and door designs, as well as various interior elements.

As part of this massive rethink, Apple has also considered the prospect of people being sat in unconventional ways. While cars typically have their seats facing one way, Apple's self-driving vehicle system could potentially allow all of the seats to face the middle of the vehicle, as if it is a room and everyone is able to talk to each other.

This change in arrangement also requires a fundamental rethink of safety systems employed in the vehicle to keep the passengers safe in the event of a collision. With the standard arrangement, there are places that airbags can be installed to keep the driver and passengers from hitting parts of the vehicle, or overextending their bodies in post-crash movements, with seat pillars and even the dashboard itself offering places to stow airbags.

For Apple's potential room-on-wheels approach, these same locations may not necessarily be available to perform the same task.

In a patent granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday titled "Occupant safety systems," Apple attempts to answer that very problem by using a number of different elements.

When an imminent collision is detected, Apple suggests the use of a deployable cabin divider that has extendable side arms and extra blocking material. As demonstrated in patent images, this could take the form of an inflatable barrier that slides between the passenger and a window.

The extendable side arms are a way to limit the motion of the passenger in an impact, popping out from the window barrier in front of the person. As in a crash passengers are thrown forward but held in place by a safety restraint, putting an inflatable section in front of them restricts their range of movement.

Examples of inflatable dividers with side arm sections to cushion a passenger and restrict their forward motion in a crash
Examples of inflatable dividers with side arm sections to cushion a passenger and restrict their forward motion in a crash


The concept is also offered in simpler ways, such as simply having a large airbag deploy from the cabin ceiling directly in front of where the passenger is sitting, with the inflatable block again restricting movement and cushioning the impact. This can even be offered in the from of an in-seatbelt version, using an airbag deployable within the safety restraint around the passenger's waist, again deploying into a large inflatable block.

In the case of the belt and ceiling-deployed inflatable blocks, a cabin divider can still be used, though more to prevent extended shifting of the airbags by giving them more resistance against the user's bodyweight. The cabin divider can also include hidden tethers, guiding the airbag's deployment to their intended finishing position.

The dividers also provide protection from loose items in the cabin, with objects on the back seat being caught in the divider instead of being thrown to the front half of the vehicle's interior, eliminating further damage from high-speed projectiles.

Examples of a seatbelt-style airbag and a ceiling-mounted airbag with extra tether to restrict movement
Examples of a seatbelt-style airbag and a ceiling-mounted airbag with extra tether to restrict movement


Along with the airbags, the patent also covers the possibility of passengers colliding with each other if facing each other in a collision. With a reverse-mounted front seat and a conventional rear seat, an impact at the front could force the rear passenger into contact with the front passenger's feet or knees.

The rear passenger will also feel more of the impact, as they will be primarily held back by the safety restraint, while the front passenger will be forced into their chair.

In a way to lessen the blow of the impact itself, and to minimize the chance of inter-passenger contact, Apple suggests the seats themselves could provide some movement. On detecting an impact, the seats could move forward a small distance, with the front seat potentially moving further than the rear.

By moving the seat, the rear passenger feels less force against their bodies, reducing how far forward their torso is pulled in a crash, and in turn reducing the risk of injury. By moving the front seat as well, this also minimizes the chance of the rear passenger contacting the front passenger's limbs in the same impact.

Moving car seats can affect the level of force felt during an impact, and prevent passengers from hitting each other
Moving car seats can affect the level of force felt during an impact, and prevent passengers from hitting each other


The patent lists its inventors as Nathaniel J. Dennis, Arturo Llamazares Domler, Rikard Fredriksson, Alexander M. Zoellner, Lukas Santas, Jorge C. Fialho, John J. Baker, Jesse T. Buehler, and Ronald A. Bowers.

Apple files numerous patent applications on a weekly basis, but while the existence of a patent indicates areas of interest for the company's research and development efforts, they do not guarantee the concepts will appear in a future product or service.

Apple's repeated efforts to improve vehicle safety

This isn't Apple's first foray into redesigning safety systems for vehicles. In November 2019, it proposed the use of light-up sections in a car seat to teach people how to use features, such as how to buckle themselves in.

In January the same year, Apple suggested using seat tensioning systems to provide drivers with a form of haptic feedback, while in August 2018, it considered how a seat and restraint could automatically shift to better protect the passenger ahead of a collision. One February 2020 patent mentioned how a car seat and belt could be automatically altered to make it more comfortable or safer during sharp turns.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,408member
    I don’t think Apple’s balance sheets are reflecting that they are spending $1billion per year to being a car to market In The next 5 years.

    Patents show they are thinking about it, but spending doesn’t show that it’s happening.  
  • Reply 2 of 14
    red oakred oak Posts: 988member
    Apple seems adrift here.  How many billions in R&D are being spent?  

    edited May 2020
  • Reply 3 of 14
    red oakred oak Posts: 988member
    eriamjh said:
    I don’t think Apple’s balance sheets are reflecting that they are spending $1billion per year to being a car to market In The next 5 years.

    Patents show they are thinking about it, but spending doesn’t show that it’s happening.  
    It is showing up in the ballooning R&D expense on the income statement, not the balance sheet.   Apple will spent $18B this year in R&D, triple where it was 5 years ago 
    mdriftmeyerfastasleep
  • Reply 4 of 14
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    When will we see the Apple Transit 1.0?
  • Reply 5 of 14
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,323member
    red oak said:
    Apple seems adrift here.  How many billions in R&D are being spent?  

    Adrift from what exactly? Headless Mac towers? Explain your statement.
    mdriftmeyer
  • Reply 6 of 14
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,503member
    red oak said:
    Apple seems adrift here.  How many billions in R&D are being spent?  


    Notr hardly. Money very well spent. Besides autos, those air bags have many future applications.
    edited May 2020
  • Reply 7 of 14
    red oakred oak Posts: 988member
    lkrupp said:
    red oak said:
    Apple seems adrift here.  How many billions in R&D are being spent?  

    Adrift from what exactly? Headless Mac towers? Explain your statement.
    Go back on your meds  
    fastasleepCloudTalkin
  • Reply 8 of 14
    thttht Posts: 4,719member
    A patent application where imaging systems are used to detect an impending collision is sure to follow. This will buy precious milliseconds to deploy safety systems.
  • Reply 9 of 14
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,963member
    red oak said:
    Apple seems adrift here.  How many billions in R&D are being spent?  


    All roads of R&D lead somewhere. Maybe not be a direct, straight path, but it all moves the world forward. So I'm thankful that Apple is investing energy into this market, even if they don't release an actual product. They will have contributed something to better products (and car safety!) everywhere.

  • Reply 10 of 14
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,408member
    tht said:
    A patent application where imaging systems are used to detect an impending collision is sure to follow. This will buy precious milliseconds to deploy safety systems.
    There’s already smart airbags that detect the rider position using ultrasonics (sound).  It may already be patented or just an extension of obviousness. 

    Wevs.   
  • Reply 11 of 14
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    eriamjh said:
    tht said:
    A patent application where imaging systems are used to detect an impending collision is sure to follow. This will buy precious milliseconds to deploy safety systems.
    There’s already smart airbags that detect the rider position using ultrasonics (sound).  It may already be patented or just an extension of obviousness. 

    Wevs.   
     
    Patents cover the implementation, not the idea. If Apple doesn't use ultrasonics then I there is no problem.

    Lots of people here seem very worried that Apple will use its huge bank of patents to stall innovation or sue smaller companies out of existence.

    As far as I remember, Apple has only embarked on a small handful of litigation exercises to protect their IP. 

    In fact, there are tech companies that patent far more stuff than Apple (IBM for example), and likewise they do not launch cases to protect against infringement.

    Why?

    Because they take patents out as a barrier against future patent trolls, rather than trying to monetise the patents themselves.

  • Reply 12 of 14
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,888member
    It would be exciting to see an Apple take on an full EV... just so long as they aren't focused on the automated crap.

    Someone has to do an electric car right one of these days!
    edited May 2020
  • Reply 13 of 14
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,873moderator
    cgWerks said:
    It would be exciting to see an Apple take on an full EV... just so long as they aren't focused on the automated crap.

    Someone has to do an electric car right one of these days!
    One of the most useful things to come from EVs will be improved battery technology. There was an article about Dyson's attempt at an EV:

    https://www.theverge.com/2020/5/17/21261473/james-dyson-electric-vehicle-tesla

    Dyson spent £500m trying to develop an EV and invested in solid-state battery tech. They felt they couldn't manufacture a vehicle at a low enough price point so abandoned the vehicle. The battery technology will still be researched.

    Solid state batteries will improve so many products because they can charge much faster. Even if they don't have as much capacity as existing batteries, fast charging points would make up for it. There are a few companies listed on the following site trying to produce new batteries for EVs:

    https://thedriven.io/2020/04/06/li-ion-co-inventor-patents-glass-battery-that-could-upturn-auto-industry/
    https://patents.google.com/patent/US20160368777

    Once that problem is overcome, it will be like when SSDs dropped below $0.20/GB and dependence on oil will come to an abrupt end. The air in cities will be so much cleaner and they can push it along by banning combustion vehicles from cities. Planes will be able to switch to electric.
  • Reply 14 of 14
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,888member
    Marvin said:
    cgWerks said:
    It would be exciting to see an Apple take on an full EV... just so long as they aren't focused on the automated crap.

    Someone has to do an electric car right one of these days!
    One of the most useful things to come from EVs will be improved battery technology. 

    ...

    Once that problem is overcome, it will be like when SSDs dropped below $0.20/GB and dependence on oil will come to an abrupt end. The air in cities will be so much cleaner and they can push it along by banning combustion vehicles from cities. Planes will be able to switch to electric.
    For sure, batteries are the key! There was something a year or two ago about aluminum battery tech being worked on at Stanford. I haven't heard much more on that, but it sounded promising too. And, I agree that will be the point where things really take off.

    However, the need for oil goes way beyond cars.
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