Short-range optical networking could help Apple Car connect to the cloud

Posted:
in General Discussion
Apple is exploring the use of high-speed but short-range optical wireless communication systems to aid self-driving vehicles, such as the rumored "Apple Car".

Credit: Bloomberg
Credit: Bloomberg


Autonomous vehicles need to upload and download massive amounts of data to safely and effectively an environment. Although sensors and computer vision play a role, self-driving cars still require external data such as current traffic and mapping information.

As noted in an Apple patent application published on Thursday, most current wireless communication systems don't provide enough bandwidth to handle the large streams of data required to enable safe autonomous driving. Other factors include cost, range, latency, and environmental challenges.

But, in its patent application, Apple has outlined several technical solutions that could be used to mitigate or eliminate those bottlenecks.

For example, Apple suggests that optical wireless communication (OWC) systems could provide increased throughput and reduced complexity -- a technology well-suited for short-range wireless communications.

Credit: Apple
Credit: Apple


More specifically, OWC hardware can be taken advantage of when a self-driving vehicle is within range of city infrastructure outfitted with the proper mechanisms.

"These solutions may be deployed in the transportation infrastructure (e.g., traffic lights, light posts, vehicle charging stations) to communicate with vehicles. Depending on the infrastructure implementation, these OWC solutions may include a fixed point-to-point OWC configuration (e.g., for charging station infrastructure) or a fixed point to moving point OWC configuration (e.g., for traffic light or light posts infrastructures)," the patent reads.

This solution could be used as a quality of service system, which could provide self-driving cars the ability to determine and share data -- even if they face a loss of connection or other service interruption.

The data that may be transmitted from a vehicle to the cloud, or vice versa, could include smart parking information; over-the-air firmware or software updates; entertainment services; weather alerts; and traffic information.

Compared to fully wireless systems like 5G, the OWC city infrastructure plan could mitigate issues with bandwidth for real-time services. For example, 5G connectivity would likely require several communication paths, or "hops," and each would add latency to a signal.

In other words, smart city infrastructure could provide connectivity to a self-driving car through OWC hardware. But, of course, it would require a massive network of smart IoT devices in across cities to function effectively.

The patent lists Hassnaa Moustafa, Bahareh Sadeghi, Shengbo Xu, Tolga Acikalin, Javier Perez-Ramirez, and Richard D. Roberts as inventors. Several of them worked on wireless communication patents for Intel, while others developed short-range communication technology for Apple.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 7
    Great theoretical work and idea’s - sadly combined with an absolute inability to implement any of them (separate or combined) 
  • Reply 2 of 7
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 5,837member
    Great theoretical work and idea’s - sadly combined with an absolute inability to implement any of them (separate or combined) 
    Not with that attitude.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 7
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,640member
    Great theoretical work and idea’s - sadly combined with an absolute inability to implement any of them (separate or combined) 

    Implement them into what? A future Apple product? I think that's the point.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 7
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    Shall we start taking bets if and when there will be an “Apple Transit” available for customers to purchase from Apple?

    [  ] Sooner than expected... this year
    [  ] 1-5 Years from now
    [  ] 6-10 Years from now
    [  ] Not in my lifetime

  • Reply 5 of 7
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 2,055member
    Shall we start taking bets if and when there will be an “Apple Transit” available for customers to purchase from Apple?

    [  ] Sooner than expected... this year
    [  ] 1-5 Years from now
    [  ] 6-10 Years from now
    [  ] Not in my lifetime

    Not in my lifetime.
  • Reply 6 of 7
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,498member
    Shall we start taking bets if and when there will be an “Apple Transit” available for customers to purchase from Apple?

    [  ] Sooner than expected... this year
    [  ] 1-5 Years from now
    [  ] 6-10 Years from now
    [  ] Not in my lifetime

    [ √ ] Not in my lifetime

    Unless it's a vehicle based on another's drivetrain I think it unlikely. There's vast amounts of engineering that goes into a car, and Apple only really has expertise for software and electronics, whereas many many mechanical engineers are required for a car. There is relatively little mechanical engineering in any of Apple's devices when compared to a car. There has been no recruitment for mechanical engineers that has been noticed by the any of the websites that follow Apple either. I think it more likely Apple will work with an existing car company to make their ideas reality, if they ever do.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 7 of 7
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 5,837member
    elijahg said:

    There has been no recruitment for mechanical engineers that has been noticed by the any of the websites that follow Apple either.
    Sure there has. All signs point to them letting many of these people go though, scaling back in 2017 and refocusing on software/sensors systems.
    https://appleinsider.com/articles/17/08/30/squad-of-apple-car-staffers-jump-ship-to-self-driving-startup-zoox

    Also others involved in materials, batteries, powertrain systems, a former Tesla vice president of vehicle engineering and former Aston Martin chief engineer, 
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_electric_car_project#Alleged_employees_and_affiliates
    watto_cobra
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