Apple car light strip could warn other drivers of hard braking incidents and other importa...

Posted:
in General Discussion
An Apple-produced car could advise vehicles following behind it of the risk of collision if they are too close, as part of a lighting system for the outside of the vehicle that can offer warnings and information to other road users.

A concept image of an Apple-produced car
A concept image of an Apple-produced car


Traditionally, lights on the front and rear of a vehicle offer up basic information, such as if the car is braking or is indicating an intention to make a turn. While this has been adequate enough for many years, Apple seems to think it can be improved upon by offering more data.

Granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, the patent for "Exterior Lighting and Warning System" explains one such way of providing information to other road users. Rather than just offering a few lights, Apple envisions a strip of LED lights in reflectors that goes around the vehicle, as well as other light-up sections on the rear, to offer up more information.

Apple says it is not only limited to LEDs in reflectors, as practically any light-based technology could be used for the purpose, including edge-lit or backlit light guides, OLED and LCD display panels, and light modulators based on liquid crystals.

An example of a light strip surrounding a vehicle on all sides
An example of a light strip surrounding a vehicle on all sides


One example offered by the patent is that it could be used to warn following drivers how far the brakes have engaged in the vehicle. A light touch could illuminate the usual brake lights, while a medium pressure could also light up the light strip, and full-on braking could make more sections light up, such as making the rear window appear red.

The strip and light-up areas are not limited to a single color, as they could be capable of displaying symbols, text, numbers, and other patterns in a variety of different colors. This could offer up more information that may be useful for others, such as vehicle speed, relative speed between the car and a following vehicle, the status information of an autonomous driving system, other vehicle status messages, or even user-customized patterns.

Not only can the lighting system be used to inform others, but it could also be used to communicate with the driver when the car is parked. Greetings and goodbye messages could be shown when the user is walking up to, or departing, the vehicle, with the messages and other important data just shown on the side of the vehicle where the user is located.

A proposed increase in lighting at the rear of the car under different levels of braking
A proposed increase in lighting at the rear of the car under different levels of braking


This is not the first time Apple has considered the possibility of using exterior notifications to warn other users. A patent granted in August for a "System and method for visual communication of an operational state" describes similar notifications via external displays on the back and front of a car, advising of what a self-driving system is intending to do in the near future.

Along with signs, the patent also suggested the use of projections onto the road, to show where the car intends to move when changing lanes, or its movements when parking or reversing.

Apple has made numerous car-related patent applications, which are all thought to be under the banner of "Project Titan," originally intended for the development of an Apple-branded vehicle but has since been refocused to just self-driving systems. Apple operates a fleet of vehicles for testing its project, and is also believed to be working with Volkswagen on the PAIL program, which intends to ferry employees between offices using autonomous vans.

As with all other patents and applications, the existence of Apple filings with the USPTO is not a guarantee that it will appear in a future Apple product or service. It is best to take such filings as an indication of fields Apple is interested in working within.

AppleInsider will be at the fall "There's more in the making" event, where we expect new iPad Pros, and maybe even new Macs! Keep up with our coverage by downloading the AppleInsider app for iOS, and follow us on YouTube, Twitter @appleinsider and Facebook for live, late-breaking coverage. You can also check out our official Instagram account for exclusive photos.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 5
    for the love of god please don't dig out those horrible design concept photos every time there is "news" about that apple car..
    randominternetpersonSpamSandwich
  • Reply 2 of 5
    for the love of god please don't dig out those horrible design concept photos every time there is "news" about that apple car..
    Exactly.  Use "fig. 25" above.  Now that's a sexy looking car.
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 3 of 5
    The patent system must be broken! Not only is “we made a sign” obvious, but there’s a stack of prior use. I’ve seen dozens of studies from people testing symbols and animations for use with AI-assisted cars. While it’s definitely something which will happen soon, with or without Apple, I find it really odd that Apple could be given such a wide ranging patent for stuff so many others have already invented. 
  • Reply 4 of 5
    The patent system must be broken! Not only is “we made a sign” obvious, but there’s a stack of prior use. I’ve seen dozens of studies from people testing symbols and animations for use with AI-assisted cars. While it’s definitely something which will happen soon, with or without Apple, I find it really odd that Apple could be given such a wide ranging patent for stuff so many others have already invented. 
    The devil is in the details.  I had the same reaction, but I haven't read the patent application for the details.  Presumably the patent only covers particular ways of doing this, not just "use LEDs on cars to display messages."  And, as we've seen, being granted a patent doesn't mean you get to enforce it.
  • Reply 5 of 5
    shaminoshamino Posts: 410member
    Displaying messages is something I both like and fear.

    On the one hand, when someone is driving behind me with their high beams on, I'd like to flash them a "You are blinding me, please turn off your high beams" message.  On the other hand, I know there are enough jerks on the road that such a message would cause them to start tailgating me, or to swing around in front and slam on their brakes, or do other incredibly stupid and dangerous things in order to punish me for the message.

    And for those who don't believe that would happen, try this test: Get yourself a "student driver" reflector magnet and stick it on the back of your car.  In most parts of the country, you will find other drivers acting MORE aggressive around you, not less.
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