Apple reinvents seatbelt with gesture controls

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Project Titan seatbelt
Simple drawing of a sophisticated seatbelt.
Photo: Apple/USPTO

Project Titan may take the steering wheel out of the driver’s hands, but controlling the car could be as easy as gesturing at the seatbelt.

Apple has filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that details a smart seatbelt with a surface that would sense hand gestures for adjusting the entertainment system and operating various features in self-driving vehicles.

First and foremost, the smart seatbelt will secure its passengers. But a touch-based or haptic communication feature on the side of the belt facing away from the body could interpret hand motions to connect with controls on the car that are out of reach or otherwise would momentarily take eyes off the road.

Project Titan: the seatbelt

Project Titan is Apple’s signal it wants to be a major player in bringing autonomous vehicles to the road in the coming decade. Some reports say Apple is out to produce its own vehicle while others speculate the company is heavily involved in the software side of things and might partner with an established automaker.

Either way, the smart seatbelt concept offers an intriguing view of the inside of a self-driving car.

“Sensed touches or gestures can be used to control vehicle systems including vehicle features and amenities,” according to Apple’s application. “The secured passenger..can tap, swipe, or gesture in a pre-defined manner either directly on or in the vicinity of the gesture-sensing device…in order to perform such vehicle functions as changing window height, seat position, radio volume, etc. The sensed touches or gestures can similarly be used to control or interact with vehicle-connected devices to perform functions such as answering or rejecting incoming phone calls or controlling a multimedia player.”

A series of microphones could also take voice input and the belt on the driver’s side, presumably, would have controls unique to the controller of the car.

If the USPTO awards Apple the patent, there is no guarantee the technology will ever see the inside of a futuristic self-driving vehicle.

Source: Apple Insider