In a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) last month, Apple publicly acknowledged that it was working on an autonomous car. If you needed further proof about the so-called Apple car, the Cupertino company has just been granted a patent for an autonomous vehicle collision avoidance system that could become the backbone of the Project Titan.

Apple Car Concept
Image Credit: Automobile Italia/Flickr

Apple car:  How the collision avoidance system works

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Thursday granted Apple patent for a “Collision Avoidance Of Arbitrary Polygonal Obstacles.”  The patent application describes a basic collision avoidance technique that could help autonomous “agents” navigate through unfamiliar environments by calculating their distances with nearby objects, and the number of objects within their radius. The patent was filed in June 2015.

According to Apple Insider, the system could operate in both 2D and 3D space, which is pretty difficult for computer vision systems. It is designed to avoid both moving and stationary obstacles by using geometry to identify obstacle edges the autonomous vehicle is likely to hit. If the system detects that the obstacle edges are not in its path, the vehicle would keep moving in the same motion.

If the collision avoidance system predicts a potential collision, it will select the “edge vector closest to the vehicle’s current position” and calculate the force required to avoid the obstacle in question, reports Apple Insider. The calculation takes several factors into account such as acceleration and vehicle mass. Once the first obstacle is avoided, the system learns from the previous encounter to move on to the next encounter.

Apple focusing on autonomous driving technology

The Apple car has been in the rumor mill for almost two years. In a letter to the US regulators last month, Apple said it was investing heavily in the “study of machine learning and automation.” The company urged the NHTSA to relax the self-driving vehicle testing regulations for new entrants like Apple. The tech giant also highlighted the need to share “crashes and near-misses” data so that the industry could build a more comprehensive picture and design better systems.

Apple was initially working on a full-fledged Apple car. But after several key departures, the company shifted its focus to developing the autonomous driving system. It leaves the options open for building a full-fledged car at a later stage or partnering with an existing automaker to bring the Apple car to roads.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook has occasionally teased that the company wanted to do more than just in-car infotainment systems. The iPhone maker has even registered many automobile-related domain names like Apple.auto and Apple.car.