Apple researching refinements to sunroofs, seating for 'Project Titan' car

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While Apple's self-driving vehicle fleet is the most prominent element of its "Project Titan" research, the company is still working on other areas of the car, including improving the safety of passengers in a vehicle and a sunroof of its own design.




A pair of patents granted to Apple on Thursday cover two areas of the driving experience that are often overlooked. The first, titled "Movable panels with nonlinear tracks," describes a sunroof system that uses multiple tracks to slide a panel along the top of the vehicle.

According to the patent, the system basically consists of two tracks and an arm that connects between both tracks and the panel. Of note is that the two tracks are not oriented the same way, with the difference in distance between the two affecting the arm's orientation, but still allowing all three components to stay connected.




In the patent's drawings, it is proposed that the system would be useful for vehicles with a narrower roof towards the center of the car and a wider roof section towards the rear. This would allow for a panel as wide as the roof to be used, and in being slid back along the tracks, is kept towards the center line of the car, but at the rear.

While drawings shown in the patent depict a car with a smooth rounded roof section, it is likely these are just to illustrate how the system would work in an ideal scenario. While Apple does include illustrations of its own products in demonstrating concepts in a patent, this should not be taken as a sign that Apple is designing a car with the shown style of roof, or with that specific sunroof track system.




The second patent, "Haptic feedback for dynamic seating system," explores ways a vehicle could provide passengers with notifications of events via their seat. Rather than alerting users by beeps and visual cues, such as those used by systems to prevent lane drift, Apple suggests using the seat itself.

By "dynamic seating system," Apple means a seat that can have one or more characteristics adjusted by the onboard computer. For example, this could include changing the height of the seat, the seat back angle, inflating or deflating seat cushions, or modifying the tension of a seatbelt.

This is all performed based on data the onboard computer is receiving from external conditions, such as the potential risk to a passenger's life based on the vehicle's motion.

In normal conditions, a simple vibration of the seat or a slight change in chair positioning could provoke a driver to pay attention, which Apple argues would be better due to it not providing a visual or audible distraction to the driver.




For hazardous driving situations, such as poor weather or the use of a car's "sport" mode, the seats could alter its settings to put the passenger in a safer position and increase the tension on the seat belt. At the same time as improving safety, the altered seating would also serve as a warning to the driver to exercise caution while in motion.

It is also noted that existing passive safety systems, such as pre-tensioners for seat belts or inflatable seat bolsters, typically only come into operation during a collision, and only once a collision has occurred. Depending on the situation, a car's sensors could detect an impact is imminent and quickly orient itself into a configuration to maximize safety, as well as triggering some safety mechanisms in advance.

The patents form part of a large body of filings Apple has made with the USPTO relating to vehicles, with the bulk regarding more exotic topics, such as self-driving systems. One filing in August advised on how a self-driving car could alert other road users of its intentions, another in July concerned how a vehicle could change its driving style based on the observed stress of its passengers, and March filings covered gesture-based controls and other similar topics.

Apple has long worked on "Project Titan" for some time, with it originally referring to a branded car until a 2016 change of focus to self-driving vehicle systems. Apple operates a fleet of vehicles for testing its autonomous driving project, and is believed to be working with Volkswagen on the PAIL program, which would ferry its employees between offices using self-driving vans.

Apple could still be working on its own vehicle, with noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggesting an "Apple Car" or related products could be usable by consumers as early as 2023.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 44
    Apple wouldn’t worry about seat cushions and sunroofs if they weren’t working on an actual, physical car.  
    SpamSandwichboxcatcherStrangeDayslolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 44
    racerhomie3racerhomie3 Posts: 1,138member
    Toyota, Nissan ,GM, Uber watch out!!!
    SpamSandwichwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 44
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,149member
    So what would the better track for Apple be? Build its own Apple branded car or buy Tesla? How about maybe contracting with Tesla to build the Apple car. Musk might buy into that for a cash infusion. Surely none of the major car manufacturers would do that, would they?

    In either event I’m hoping I live to be able to buy a self-driving electric vehicle. I just turned 68 and would love to just get in such a vehicle and tell it to take me to wherever I want to go. So tired of driving after 52 years of it. I’ve pretty much given up hope of living to see a colony on the Moon or a manned mission to Mars. I can still cross my fingers for SETI to find ET in my lifetime. B)
    edited August 2018 welshdoglolliverwatto_cobrarandominternetpersonjony0
  • Reply 4 of 44
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 1,848member
    lkrupp said:
    So what would the better track for Apple be? Build its own Apple branded car or buy Tesla? How about maybe contracting with Tesla to build the Apple car. Musk might buy into that for a cash infusion. Surely none of the major car manufacturers would do that, would they?

    In either event I’m hoping I live to be able to buy a self-driving electric vehicle. I just turned 68 and would love to just get in such a vehicle and tell it to take me to wherever I want to go. So tired of driving after 52 years of it. I’ve pretty much given up hope of living to see a colony on the Moon or a manned mission to Mars. I can still cross my fingers for SETI to find ET in my lifetime. B)
    We all want it, roads have become so congested that driving is not a fun activity anymore.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 44
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    Can't innovate? My ass!

    Apple will dominate the entire international car industry when it releases iCar. These patents prove it.
  • Reply 6 of 44
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,097member
    lkrupp said:
    So what would the better track for Apple be? Build its own Apple branded car or buy Tesla? How about maybe contracting with Tesla to build the Apple car. Musk might buy into that for a cash infusion. Surely none of the major car manufacturers would do that, would they?

    In either event I’m hoping I live to be able to buy a self-driving electric vehicle. I just turned 68 and would love to just get in such a vehicle and tell it to take me to wherever I want to go. So tired of driving after 52 years of it. I’ve pretty much given up hope of living to see a colony on the Moon or a manned mission to Mars. I can still cross my fingers for SETI to find ET in my lifetime. B)
    Ugh. I hope Apple doesn’t hook up with Musk. He’s nuts.
    larryaphilboogierandominternetperson
  • Reply 7 of 44
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 375member
    Patents can be valuable on their own. Apple doesn't have to build a car for the patents to earn money for Apple. Now that the patents are filed, other manufacturers can license and build. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 44
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,183member
    This Apple Car is going to seem less like a car and more like a robot.
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 44
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    larryjw said:
    Patents can be valuable on their own. Apple doesn't have to build a car for the patents to earn money for Apple. Now that the patents are filed, other manufacturers can license and build. 
    Apple is NOT a NPE. They will either produce the tech or allow somebody else to do it for free. Apple is NOT a patent troll.
    lolliver
  • Reply 10 of 44
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,091moderator
    I truly wish the first meetings of the Titan team, back a few years ago, resolved that the eventual entry of an Apole vehicle would come only as a fully automated vehicle, after the day comes when such vehicles would no longer be required to have human driver controls at all.  Perhaps I’m dreaming, maybe that day is too far afield and Apple needs to participate even during the transitional era.  But it seems Apple’s DNA fits with a truly driverless vehicle; one that can be minimized by stripping out all the human driver interface.  All those mechanics and even drive-by-wire redundancies removed, to focus their design and engineering teams on the essence of a moving vehicle, devoid of even headlights.
  • Reply 11 of 44
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,928member
    All I can say is, Finally!

    I can't believe that I've had to go this long with no imaginary sunroof for my imaginary apple car. 
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 12 of 44
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,928member
    Ugh. I hope Apple doesn’t hook up with Musk. He’s nuts.
    I think it's highly unlikely that Apple will ever buy Tesla simply because a lot of Tesla's value is in its brand and Apple has little need for Tesla's brand (Apple already has a great brand). 

    I think a more likely buyer of Tesla is some Chinese company that has little to no brand value outside of China. Kind of like how Tata bought Landrover/Jaguar. 
    hydrogenStrangeDaysSpamSandwichlolliver
  • Reply 13 of 44
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,602member
    lkrupp said:
    So what would the better track for Apple be? Build its own Apple branded car or buy Tesla? How about maybe contracting with Tesla to build the Apple car. Musk might buy into that for a cash infusion. Surely none of the major car manufacturers would do that, would they?

    In either event I’m hoping I live to be able to buy a self-driving electric vehicle. I just turned 68 and would love to just get in such a vehicle and tell it to take me to wherever I want to go. So tired of driving after 52 years of it. I’ve pretty much given up hope of living to see a colony on the Moon or a manned mission to Mars. I can still cross my fingers for SETI to find ET in my lifetime. B)
    I would much rather see Apple 'disrupt' the old and tired car ownership model than create another car to sit in my driveway and congest the roads. I would love not to have to own a car at all - on average a car spends 95% of its time parked in the driveway, and we all know what a commuter run looks like - a million cars wth a single person in each vehicle. I would love to have a ride subscription - and of course I'd like it to be part of my iCloud family plan. So... 'Hey Siri, I need a car in 10'. I step out and into the 'whatever it is', which then takes me to where I want to go and then goes on its merry way. 

    StrangeDayslolliver
  • Reply 14 of 44
    irelandireland Posts: 17,616member
    Obligatory Apple Car concept:

    LordeHawkStrangeDaysSpamSandwich
  • Reply 15 of 44
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,711member
    paxman said:
    lkrupp said:
    So what would the better track for Apple be? Build its own Apple branded car or buy Tesla? How about maybe contracting with Tesla to build the Apple car. Musk might buy into that for a cash infusion. Surely none of the major car manufacturers would do that, would they?

    In either event I’m hoping I live to be able to buy a self-driving electric vehicle. I just turned 68 and would love to just get in such a vehicle and tell it to take me to wherever I want to go. So tired of driving after 52 years of it. I’ve pretty much given up hope of living to see a colony on the Moon or a manned mission to Mars. I can still cross my fingers for SETI to find ET in my lifetime. B)
    I would much rather see Apple 'disrupt' the old and tired car ownership model than create another car to sit in my driveway and congest the roads. I would love not to have to own a car at all - on average a car spends 95% of its time parked in the driveway, and we all know what a commuter run looks like - a million cars wth a single person in each vehicle. I would love to have a ride subscription - and of course I'd like it to be part of my iCloud family plan. So... 'Hey Siri, I need a car in 10'. I step out and into the 'whatever it is', which then takes me to where I want to go and then goes on its merry way. 

    A few companies have that scenario in mind. Makes good sense actually in a major metro, while the 'burbs become a bit iffy and rural probably won't make sense anytime soon if ever from an economic standpoint. 
    edited August 2018 entropys
  • Reply 16 of 44
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,943member
    lkrupp said:
    So what would the better track for Apple be? Build its own Apple branded car or buy Tesla? How about maybe contracting with Tesla to build the Apple car. Musk might buy into that for a cash infusion. Surely none of the major car manufacturers would do that, would they?

    In either event I’m hoping I live to be able to buy a self-driving electric vehicle. I just turned 68 and would love to just get in such a vehicle and tell it to take me to wherever I want to go. So tired of driving after 52 years of it. I’ve pretty much given up hope of living to see a colony on the Moon or a manned mission to Mars. I can still cross my fingers for SETI to find ET in my lifetime. B)
    What value add does Tesla offer Apple that Apple couldn’t provide itself? Why does Apple need Tesla?
    entropyslolliverwatto_cobrabrucemc
  • Reply 17 of 44
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,943member

    larryjw said:
    Patents can be valuable on their own. Apple doesn't have to build a car for the patents to earn money for Apple. Now that the patents are filed, other manufacturers can license and build. 
    Selling patents isn’t a business line for Apple. They wouldn’t get into auto patents for that reason alone.
    PickUrPoisonlolliverclaire1watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 44
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,789member
    paxman said:
    So... 'Hey Siri, I need a car in 10'. I step out and into the 'whatever it is', which then takes me to where I want to go and then goes on its merry way. 

    Most people in the US don't fit that mind set. Personally, I want to own my own car(s). Even something as simple as picking up a friend for tee time and afterwards lunch would be a major inconvenience with a ride share, lugging golf clubs into the restaurant, not cool. I can think of many situations where not owning a car would be a real issue for me. Besides I like to drive and I have really nice cars.
    watto_cobrabrucemc
  • Reply 19 of 44
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,789member
    StrangeDays said:
    What value add does Tesla offer Apple that Apple couldn’t provide itself? Why does Apple need Tesla?
    Ask them why they bought Beats and kept the name. They also bought Siri and kept the name.
    edited August 2018
  • Reply 20 of 44
    welshdogwelshdog Posts: 1,692member
    lkrupp said:
    So what would the better track for Apple be? Build its own Apple branded car or buy Tesla? How about maybe contracting with Tesla to build the Apple car. Musk might buy into that for a cash infusion. Surely none of the major car manufacturers would do that, would they?

    In either event I’m hoping I live to be able to buy a self-driving electric vehicle. I just turned 68 and would love to just get in such a vehicle and tell it to take me to wherever I want to go. So tired of driving after 52 years of it. I’ve pretty much given up hope of living to see a colony on the Moon or a manned mission to Mars. I can still cross my fingers for SETI to find ET in my lifetime. B)
    I'm wit ya Kruppy. I used to love driving my manual transmission German cars, but I'm old now and driving in general is unpleaeant - at best. Give me auto everything and fuhgeddaboudit.
    watto_cobra
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