'Apple Car' may automatically configure seats, keep displays private

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware
Passengers of the "Apple Car" may only be able to see displays inside the vehicle while wearing special glasses for privacy, while the driver may discover the car's seat and steering wheel could change position automatically by detecting the presence of their iPhone.

BMW has embraced CarKey, Apple's digital key protocol that uses an iPhone to replace a key fob.
BMW has embraced CarKey, Apple's digital key protocol that uses an iPhone to replace a key fob.


The "Apple Car" is a long-rumored product that has been in development for a considerable length of time, but reports from the start of 2021 claim it may not be too long before it officially launches. Apple is said to be in talks with Hyundai subsidiary Kia to make the car for a potential 2024 launch, with a "beta" version likely to surface in 2022.

As a car that is thought to include an electric drive train and self-driving vehicle systems, the "Apple Car" is also anticipated to have many other radical designs, affecting both its appearance and its utility.

In a pair of patents granted on Tuesday by the US Patent and Trademark Office, Apple offers ways the vehicle could be different, both in terms of privacy and for driver comfort.

Multi-user display system

The first patent deals with a problem relating to in-vehicle displays. Unlike an analog dial or other non-illuminated elements informing the driver, a display typically emits light, and can potentially be readable from outside the vehicle by other road users.

Furthermore, for in-car entertainment, passengers may not want to watch the same content if only one screen is available. Having multiple displays may be an expensive solution, but also one that may result in users having smaller screens to view, rather than a larger shared screen.

The patent, titled "Multi-user display system," aims to fix both elements by talking advantage of a concept explored by some 3D televisions that use special glasses. Passengers inside the vehicle are given glasses to wear that use a liquid crystal light modulating system, namely an active shutter system that repeatedly blocks light and lets it through.

The glasses could have built-in headphones for entertainment purposes.
The glasses could have built-in headphones for entertainment purposes.


This system is synchronized to the display system, allowing content to be emitted only at times when the shutter of the glasses are open. This happens at such a high rate that the wearer doesn't observe the shutters opening or closing, but can see the content.

To make the system private, Apple suggests that for times that the shutter in the glasses is closed, the same system displays other bogus content, making the user-viewable content unreadable for external observers who do not have the synchronized glasses.

The concept can be extended to account for multiple users and unique content. By adjusting the timing of the glasses to be offset, this means the system could display one set of content while one user's shutter is open and another's is closed, then switches to show different content to coincide with the opposite shutter arrangement.

The patent lists its inventors as David E. Kingman, Clarisse Mazuir, and James R. Wilson. It was originally filed on July 17, 2017.

Automatic configuration of self-configurable environments

One thing drivers of a shared vehicle have to contend with is a need to change how they are seated in the vehicle when they get in. Changing the position of the chair, the steering wheel height, mirror positions, and other elements may have to be updated, both for the safety of the driver and for comfort.

In the second patent named "Automatic configuration of self-configurable environments," Apple suggests that the entire process of changing these and other items could be considerably easier for drivers, by automating the entire process.

Some vehicles already do this, providing automated changing of settings to suit the user at the touch of a button, but there is still room for improvement. For example, the process of telling the car to to change configuration could be eliminated entirely.

It may also be beneficial in making the settings portable from vehicle to vehicle, so a user doesn't have to set up the configuration in every new vehicle they enter.

The configuration could include the seat height, distance from pedals, lean, and other components.
The configuration could include the seat height, distance from pedals, lean, and other components.


Apple's solution involves the use of a mobile device that can carry multiple configuration settings, which could be read and interpreted by the vehicle over a wireless connection, which in turn changes the position of in-car elements. In effect, it could automatically configure the vehicle on detecting a driver approaching the vehicle.

Once the mobile device is aware of a configuration for one type of vehicle, it could also convert the data into a standard measurement, which can then be used in creating an initial configuration for a second vehicle the user may enter. This would give a baseline configuration that could be close to ideal for the driver, but could be further tweaked and saved for future configuration needs.

The patent was invented by Thomas Ethan Lowry, and was filed on September 21, 2018.

Prior Work

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 teams, it's not a guarantee that the idea will appear in a future product or service.

This is also true for many other patents that can apply to the "Apple Car."

The idea of using glasses in a car has been explored before, with Apple suggesting it could employ AR and VR headsets to offer virtual environments and enhance how data is presented to passengers, while taking into account inertia to reduce the chance of motion sickness.

Apple's CarKey is a digital key system that can use an iPhone to act as a key for a vehicle, one that could unlock or start a car. Given that data is transferred as part of the process, it wouldn't be a massive stretch to imagine configuration data could be exchanged at the same time, which could allow the first patent to work.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 28
    These things are certainly very interesting and useful for the users, but they will for sure push up the total price of the car.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 28
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,856member
    Well the seats & steering wheel changing by detecting what iPhone is in the driver’s seat is one of those “obvious idea obvious” things. but still pretty cool.. obviously. 

    I forget, is BMW charging an annual subscription for car key? 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 28
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,743member
    cornchip said:
    Well the seats & steering wheel changing by detecting what iPhone is in the driver’s seat is one of those “obvious idea obvious” things. but still pretty cool.. obviously. 

    I forget, is BMW charging an annual subscription for car key? 

    No, they are not. Nor do they charge for CarPlay any longer.
    Rayz2016watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 28
    I like the personal screen idea. My LG TV allows me to do that with split screen games. It always looked wonky though as it essentially stretched the split across the whole screen. A novel idea. If apple uses active glasses I’m sure it’ll be a much clear image as my tv used passive glasses to achieve this. 
    watto_cobrallama
  • Reply 5 of 28
    Tesla, just carry your phone thats configure and boom....no engine to start. 
  • Reply 6 of 28
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,573member
    mike1 said:
    cornchip said:
    Well the seats & steering wheel changing by detecting what iPhone is in the driver’s seat is one of those “obvious idea obvious” things. but still pretty cool.. obviously. 

    I forget, is BMW charging an annual subscription for car key? 
    No, they are not. Nor do they charge for CarPlay any longer.
    That's good to hear. It was absurd when they did, and I remember apologists explaining why it was necessary ("Because software!"). It isn't, the software dev costs are factored into the retail purchase price. 

    Side note, I bought the CPLAY2Air wireless CarPlay adapter for my Subaru, this thing is awesome. The auto makers have no excuse for not having implemented wireless CarPlay on their own by now. 
    watto_cobrallamabyronl
  • Reply 7 of 28
    Sorry, but these are stupid and not innovative in any way.

    What the heck are you trying to hide on your dashboard screen and from whom? Your wife sitting next to you? You are in a private, closed environment. Someone not wearing shutter glasses can see the screen perfectly well, just at 50% brightness. How stupid are you going to look wearing shutter glasses over your regular (for those of us who wear glasses) to drive a car? By the way, shutter glasses are 30 years old, so hardly new. They were among the first 3D glasses (Stereopgraphics) and the method was swapping left-right news in two alternating buffers. Pretty simple to have both shutters on/off at the same time (instead of alternating) so again, nothing new.

    Cars have had memory seats for some time now. I imagine some linked to the FOB in your pocket.

    I hear Apple's new car is rumoured (don't ask my source, it is secret) that it will have the ability to move in the forward OR the reverse direction. Speculation, but this incredible mode switch may be accessible via a button on the dash, iPhone App and maybe, just maybe via Siri.

    Really, maybe Apple car feature rumours should be limited to features that might actually be appealing to someone. This throw all the noodles to the wall to see what sticks method hardly makes anyone excited at the prospect of an Apple car (on top of the rumour that Kia will be making them?). Not getting me excited at least.
    edited January 26 razorpitavon b7qwerty52
  • Reply 8 of 28
    XedXed Posts: 1,028member
    Having the seat and steering wheel adjust to the driver has existed for years in some form, but what I've never seen are the air vents adjusting to the driver's preferences. The SO loves to close them off and since that's something I never do, I always sit there wondering why it's so hot and stuffy before I realize that they've been effectively shutdown. But, that's probably not a common issue and having climiate controlled from the center console is probably enough for this era of intelligent autos, so I'm not holding out for that level of advancement in my lifetime.
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 28
    hentaiboyhentaiboy Posts: 1,244member
    Ahh shutter shades...



    razorpitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 28
    razorpitrazorpit Posts: 1,796member
    rcomeau said:
    Sorry, but these are stupid and not innovative in any way.

    What the heck are you trying to hide on your dashboard screen and from whom? Your wife sitting next to you? You are in a private, closed environment. Someone not wearing shutter glasses can see the screen perfectly well, just at 50% brightness. How stupid are you going to look wearing shutter glasses over your regular (for those of us who wear glasses) to drive a car? By the way, shutter glasses are 30 years old, so hardly new. They were among the first 3D glasses (Stereopgraphics) and the method was swapping left-right news in two alternating buffers. Pretty simple to have both shutters on/off at the same time (instead of alternating) so again, nothing new.

    Cars have had memory seats for some time now. I imagine some linked to the FOB in your pocket.

    I hear Apple's new car is rumoured (don't ask my source, it is secret) that it will have the ability to move in the forward OR the reverse direction. Speculation, but this incredible mode switch may be accessible via a button on the dash, iPhone App and maybe, just maybe via Siri.

    Really, maybe Apple car feature rumours should be limited to features that might actually be appealing to someone. This throw all the noodles to the wall to see what sticks method hardly makes anyone excited at the prospect of an Apple car (on top of the rumour that Kia will be making them?). Not getting me excited at least.
    Add the ability to go left and right and I’m sold.
  • Reply 11 of 28
    Apple thinks memory seats and memory steering wheel is innovation?  Cars that have memory seats and a power adjusting steering wheel with push-to-start keyfobs have done that for years.  It recognizes which keyfob started the car and automatically adjusts the steering wheel and driver seat automatically.  My 2016 Maxima did that, as well as any other vehicle that shares the same features.

    Apple's Digital Key is dumb.  My keyfob is far more convenient because I never have to take it out of my pocket to start the car or unlock the doors.  Apple's innovation is requiring you to place the phone on a charge pad to start the car?  Hey Apple, you might as well invent the physical key...and then you can lend that key to friends so they can wreck your car drop your policy limits to the minimum for 'permissive use'.  No one leaves their house without their keys.
  • Reply 12 of 28

    mike1 said:
    cornchip said:
    Well the seats & steering wheel changing by detecting what iPhone is in the driver’s seat is one of those “obvious idea obvious” things. but still pretty cool.. obviously. 

    I forget, is BMW charging an annual subscription for car key? 

    No, they are not. Nor do they charge for CarPlay any longer.
    BMW is working on a new subscription feature to use 'driver enhanced' features, and that includes charging you a monthly fee to use the heated seats.  Don't believe it, just google it.  Both Forbes and The Drive both reported on it last summer.  So that would easily include Apple's Digital Key.  Sorry, but the keyfob is more convenient and useful than Apple's Digital Key that requires you to take your phone out of your pocket and place it on the charge pad.  Key fob can stay in your pocket.
  • Reply 13 of 28
    Kuyangkoh said:
    Tesla, just carry your phone thats configure and boom....no engine to start. 
    That's just about every EV now - Chevy has keypass on the Bolt.

    I was watching a walkthrough of the new Nissan Aryia last night (Late Brake Show) - they have that kind of auto-configure feature for the seats and climate control, etc.  Not sure if you can link it to your phone, Jonny only mentioned the key fob.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 28
    rcomeau said:
    (on top of the rumour that Kia will be making them?). Not getting me excited at least.
    Apple would only be using their manufacturing plant to build the cars.  They are not Kias with an Apple logo on it.  You do realize that Apple does not manufacture ANY of their products, don't you?  Apple designs the products and they have other companies build them.  They don't make the displays, components, housings, or assemble them.  You seem to be okay with Foxconn manufacturing the iPhones.

    Second, the Apple Car will be so expensive, if it ever becomes reality, that only the super-rich will be able to afford them.  Consumers begged Apple to make a tower Mac Pro, so Apple delivered with a $6,000 product that no one could afford.  Apple would be better off licensing their software technology to existing auto manufacturers, rather than build a car no one would buy, or afford to buy.
  • Reply 15 of 28
    1348513485 Posts: 190member
    Apple thinks memory seats and memory steering wheel is innovation?  Cars that have memory seats and a power adjusting steering wheel with push-to-start keyfobs have done that for years.  It recognizes which keyfob started the car and automatically adjusts the steering wheel and driver seat automatically.  My 2016 Maxima did that, as well as any other vehicle that shares the same features.

    Apple's Digital Key is dumb.  My keyfob is far more convenient because I never have to take it out of my pocket to start the car or unlock the doors.  Apple's innovation is requiring you to place the phone on a charge pad to start the car?  Hey Apple, you might as well invent the physical key...and then you can lend that key to friends so they can wreck your car drop your policy limits to the minimum for 'permissive use'.  No one leaves their house without their keys.
    Don't get too excited by the description in the article. It's likely to be quite different by the time it hits the market.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 28
    1348513485 Posts: 190member
    Apple thinks memory seats and memory steering wheel is innovation?  Cars that have memory seats and a power adjusting steering wheel with push-to-start keyfobs have done that for years.  It recognizes which keyfob started the car and automatically adjusts the steering wheel and driver seat automatically.  My 2016 Maxima did that, as well as any other vehicle that shares the same features.

    Apple's Digital Key is dumb.  My keyfob is far more convenient because I never have to take it out of my pocket to start the car or unlock the doors.  Apple's innovation is requiring you to place the phone on a charge pad to start the car?  Hey Apple, you might as well invent the physical key...and then you can lend that key to friends so they can wreck your car drop your policy limits to the minimum for 'permissive use'.  No one leaves their house without their keys.
    Don't get too excited by the description in the article. It's likely to be quite different by the time it hits the market.
  • Reply 17 of 28
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,109member
    I reckon it will be a subscription only self driving car that turns up when you book it. You won’t own it. That is for our corporate owners. For our own good of course.
    It seems the car will be like the cars in Demolition Man, a movie that turned out to have quite good predictions about our future Brave New World, and greater depth than it seems. 

    Now if I could only work out how to use the three shells.
    razorpitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 28
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,631member
    entropys said:
    I reckon it will be a subscription only self driving car that turns up when you book it. You won’t own it. That is for our corporate owners. For our own good of course.
    It seems the car will be like the cars in Demolition Man, a movie that turned out to have quite good predictions about our future Brave New World, and greater depth than it seems. 

    Now if I could only work out how to use the three shells.

    I'd think Apple would want to find a way to be the car you still buy. Sell it as an additional (mobile) lounge/entertainment room to the point you'd actually be happy to use it like that even if it was just sitting in the garage. Once you reduce the fuel, oil and grim garages can be pleasant.

    They'd want to be the one car a family keeps, even if over 50% of the families travel needs are catered for by subscription services.

    Bonus points would be to do both but Apple has always done better products when they primarily target the consumer directly and use by association is a happy bonus.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 28
    qwerty52 said:
    These things are certainly very interesting and useful for the users, but they will for sure push up the total price of the car.
    Maybe it should have zero features to make it cheaper! 🙄
    watto_cobramacgui
  • Reply 20 of 28
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 5,689member

    rcomeau said:
    Sorry, but these are stupid and not innovative in any way.

    What the heck are you trying to hide on your dashboard screen and from whom? Your wife sitting next to you? You are in a private, closed environment. Someone not wearing shutter glasses can see the screen perfectly well, just at 50% brightness. How stupid are you going to look wearing shutter glasses over your regular (for those of us who wear glasses) to drive a car? By the way, shutter glasses are 30 years old, so hardly new. They were among the first 3D glasses (Stereopgraphics) and the method was swapping left-right news in two alternating buffers. Pretty simple to have both shutters on/off at the same time (instead of alternating) so again, nothing new.
    Try reading the article again, specifically about shared screens with multiple users' content on them. Dummy content to obscure from outside observers. It's for passengers, not drivers.
    Really, maybe Apple car feature rumours should be limited to features that might actually be appealing to someone. This throw all the noodles to the wall to see what sticks method hardly makes anyone excited at the prospect of an Apple car (on top of the rumour that Kia will be making them?). Not getting me excited at least.

    Or they can just write about the myriad patents that have been coming out for the past five years and you can skip over the ones you're not interested in? Some of us are interested in the patents, thank you very much. What gets you excited could not be less interesting to me.

    watto_cobra
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