Apple tech could improve visibility in bad driving conditions

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Street at night 2
This could be an important development for an Apple Car.
Photo: j3n53r/Flickr CC

As part of its Project Titan initiative, Apple has invented some smart tech for improving detection of road signs and other vehicles on the road in low visibility situations.

This could ramp up safety in situations such as an autonomous Apple Car driving in foggy, snowy, low light or otherwise hard-to-see situations.

The patent was published by the European Patent Office last week. It describes:

“A retroreflector system including an outer body panel coupled to a vehicle, wherein the outer body panel is configured to allow a radar signal originating from an external radar device to pass through the outer body panel. The retroreflector system also includes a plurality of retroreflectors embedded in the vehicle, where the plurality of retroreflectors is configured to reflect the signal to the external signal source as a reflected signal, and where the plurality of retroreflectors is configured to have a peak reflectivity for a radar wavelength range or a light detection and ranging (lidar) wavelength range.”

That kind of patent-ese can be a little tough to parse. While the patent doesn’t reveal exactly how it works, it sounds like Apple has figured out a way to use a combination of sensor readings to identify road signs and other objects. This could include a combination of text recognition from image recognition, bounced lidar signals and more.

The future of Project Titan

Previously we heard that Apple has plans to create a revolutionary redesign to lidar sensors. These sensors would be smaller, cheaper and more easily mass-produced than current models. A.I. papers published by Apple also reveal that it has found ways to better objects using “3D point clouds” for lidar.

Recently, there has been mixed news about Project Titan’s future. The latest filing with the California Department of Motor Vehicles shows that Apple has decreased the size of its self-driving fleet. The company currently has around 69 autonomous cars in operation. It’s not clear whether Apple plans to eventually launch a self-driving car or is just developing technology for third-party vehicles.

Interestingly, this recent patent notes that information could also be “displayed to a passenger on a display device.” Although you’d still need the necessary autonomous sensors, this suggests it could also be used for more traditional human-driven cars.

Via: Patently Apple