Apple’s long-rumored car has been in the works for years and been seen on test runs on public roads. The latest reports suggest that the Apple car plans to provide LED screens all over the vehicle to tell other drivers what the self-driving system is doing.
In a patent granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, titled “Exterior Lighting and Warning System,” Apple wants a more elaborate self-driving system that can give signals to other road users. Instead of the usual array of simple indicator lights, Apple instead believes it can do the same job using more complex lighting systems.
Apple’s on-road testing of its self-driving technology seems to be focused on reading the road and responding to conditions. Additionally, there are other features of driving that inbound systems have to deal with.
One of them is indicating to other drivers on the road about what the car will do next. With a driver in the seat other cars generally get clues about the vehicle’s next moves. But there are no contextual clues from a driver-less vehicle.
Apple now plans on displays all around the vehicle, potentially as an all-encompassing strip of lights. This display could show a variety of information other than that brakes are applied or that they wish to travel left or right.
It could show the relative speed of the car to another following behind, countdown timers for actions, and maybe graphics and video.
For drivers parking the vehicle, the displays could show a goodbye message, or welcome the user on arrival to the vehicle itself.
The patent for this display was filed in 2018. The latest patent is a follow-on. The initial patent covered the idea of exterior-facing indicator signs, the new patent includes technologies used to create the signs.
For the outside of the vehicle, Apple’s February 2020 patent for “System and method for light and image projection” offers a headlight that highlights part of the road that a driver should pay attention to, such as road signs or obstacles.
Inside the car, a privacy-based variable lighting system allows the occupants to see each other but blocks specific light bands from outside.
There are talks of adding lighting systems in seats to guide people through seat controls and how to buckle up.
Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims that the Apple Car is unlikely to be launched before 2025-2027. There are a lot of uncertainties about its specs and supplies. Also, the whole self-driving system and EV tech are far from perfect.