An ‘Apple Car’ could ‘see’ and understand gestures from traffic cops, school crossing guards

Let the Apple Car rumors roll on. Apple has been granted a patent (number 10,909,389) for “traffic direction gesture recognition” for a vehicle. In other words, it could “see” and respond to gestures from, among other folks, traffic cops and school crossing guards.

In the patent data, the tech giant notes that vehicle safety improvements and the rise of interest in automated navigation and control of vehicles have led to the inclusion of different types of remote sensing equipment installed on vehicles. These sensors can include one or more radars, ultrasonic sensors, light beam scanning devices, visible light camera devices, infrared camera devices, near-infrared camera devices, and depth camera devices which can include one or more light-scanning devices, including LIDAR devices, etc. 

Automated navigation and control systems may process data collected by the sensors in order to detect and characterize objects in the environment for various purposes. Apple says that one purpose for detecting and characterizing objects in the environment is to increase efficiency and safety of travel, which can also reduce travel times, decrease fuel usage, reduce environmental pollution associated with vehicular travel, and decrease overall travel costs, among other potential benefits. However, current autonomous vehicle systems typically return control to the driver in the event of an unexpected traffic diversion or any number of other atypical driving situations. 

Current technologies include GPS-based navigation applications that can display real-time traffic conditions to a vehicle operator; analyze traffic conditions, a vehicle destination, and mapping data; and recommend a travel route based on various user-configured or default preferences. Other technologies allow for detection of surrounding vehicles and other traffic obstacles, primarily with the intent to help prevent collisions, as in the case of blind-spot detection and warning devices and similar systems. 

Some modern cruise control systems, such as a typical “adaptive cruise control” system pursue a target vehicle speed and may adjust speed for safety purposes (e.g. to maintain a safe following distance). However, Apple says that none of these systems addresses unexpected traffic diversions where a pedestrian may be manually directing traffic, for example due to an accident, special event, or road hazard. The tech giant wants any vehicle it’s involved with to have such capabilities.

Here’s the summary of the patent: “Traffic direction gesture recognition may be implemented for a vehicle in response to traffic diversion signals in the vehicles vicinity. Sensors implemented as part of a vehicle may collect data about pedestrians and other obstacles in the vicinity of the vehicle or along the vehicle’s route of travel. Sensor data may be combined and analyzed to identify a traffic diversion condition, including identifying a traffic director directing traffic using gestures or signs. 

“Gestures of a traffic director may be interpreted and understood by the vehicle as commands to perform maneuvers related to the traffic diversion, including stopping, slowing, or turning onto a detour route. The vehicle may be equipped with a command acknowledgement device for acknowledging to a traffic director the vehicle’s understanding of the traffic diversion condition or maneuver commands. Information, such as traffic diversion and detour information, may be shared with other vehicles and devices, or stored in a database.”

Speaking of Apple Car rumors, a report from Reuters says executives at Hyundai are divided over a potential partnership with Apple, “with some raising concerns about becoming a contract manufacturer for the U.S. tech giant, dimming the outlook for a deal.”

On January 8, Korea IT News reported that Apple and Hyundai would team up to produce electric vehicles. On January 10, it was reported that Apple and Hyundai plan to sign a partnership deal on autonomous electric cars by March and start production around 2024 in the U.S.

Then, on January 19, Korea’s eDaily claimed that Hyundai intends to transition the company’s “Apple Car” partnership to its Kia brand as part of an arrangement that could see production move to the U.S.

The report added that Hyundai has decided it’s “not suitable” for the ‌Apple Car‌ business because of its will, to continue the Hyundai brand. Plus, the car maker purportedly doesn’t want to come an original equipment manufacturer for Apple vehicles.

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.