Apple has filed for a patent (number 20180253609) for a “system and method for light and image projection” that will only fuel the rumors that the company is building an “Apple Car.” Details of the invention show that it could also be used in an Apple Bike, Apple Train, or Apple Plane (though I don’t suspect we’ll see any of those).
The patent filing involves controlling the projection of an array of lights or an image from a headlight of a vehicle. In the filing, Apple notes that many governing bodies require headlights to be installed and operational on many types of vehicles, such as automobiles, bicycles, trains, aircraft, and the like. Typically, the headlight is attached to the front of the vehicle and shines a uniform light onto the road or other surface in front of the vehicle.
Many headlights utilize a light source (such as a light bulb) placed near the focus of a reflector of parabolic shape that reflects the lights through a forward-facing lens to guide the light beam to illuminate the road surface in front of the vehicle. Further, some headlight constructions may include a low beam setting and a high beam setting.
However, Apple says that traditional headlights often fail to properly illuminate the scene in front of the vehicle in particular circumstances, such as rural roads with little to no street light presence and in rainy or foggy conditions. It’s with these and other issues in mind that Apple came up with its own headlight plan.
Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “Aspects of the present disclosure involve systems, methods, devices, and the like, for controlling the projection of an array of lights or an image from a headlight of a vehicle in response to information provided by one or more sensors or user inputs. The projection may be utilized to highlight an object in or near the path of travel of a vehicle. In another example, the headlight may be controlled to adjust the contrast across the field of view of the headlight.
“In addition, the system may project one or more images onto an object or surface either in the path of the vehicle or within the field of view of the headlight, projecting a ‘next step’ in a series of navigation instructions onto the road, and/or projecting an indication of a movement of the vehicle to warn people around the vehicle of the movement of the vehicle. One or more visual effects may also be incorporated into the system to enhance the visibility of objects.”
As the Sellers Research Group (that’s me) has long said, I don’t think that Apple will actually build its own automobiles, but will work with other manufactures to implement technologies such as enhanced CarPlay into their vehicles.
Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.