The long-rumored Apple Car could feature an AR display that gives drivers information about the road ahead – perhaps even things that are outside of the driver’s vision.
The Apple Car has long been rumored by those in the industry, and the company has expressed interest in the past about their own take on a vehicle. With signature Apple design and engineering, it’s certainly possible that the car could revolutionize the industry and provide a high-tech option that competes with industry staples.
One of the most notable inclusions that we may see with the Apple Car, however, is an AR display. The AR display would be a key feature, giving users information they need about the road around them without being distracting. While drivers may not be able to fully rely on the judgment of an autonomous car – as evidenced by the recent Uber crash that caused the first autonomous vehicle fatality – having more technology that keeps drivers safe and makes the morning commute more convenient is always a good thing. We haven’t really seen an AR display implemented in the way we might see it in the Apple Car, which positions the tech giant to make a splash with their entry into the car industry.
A recent patent application for the AR display describes an “Adaptive vehicle augmented reality display using stereographic imagery,” and details an AR system that essentially uses a pre-generated 3D model of the world in order to improve the content that it provides for its user. There are a number of ways in this technology could be useful, and an Apple Car that already has knowledge of the world around it could provide useful contextual information – provided it can roll with the punches and adapt to changes in the environment, that is. If the AR display actually comes to fruition in the development of an Apple Car, we may see the company revolutionize the auto industry on their first effort. It wouldn’t be the first time the company led the charge into the future, however, with the iPhone holding the title of the first modern smartphone – inspiring all phones to come with its unique touchscreen display.
According to the patent, the AR display would include data about road routes, points of interest, and other areas that are useful to drivers which would purportedly be held in cloud storage. This data is then collected into smaller chunks in individual “tiles”, and displayed as needed on the display. This gives the Apple Car the ability to store an incredible amount of information and only provide info on the AR display when it’s truly needed. How exactly this would be implemented on a large scale remains to be seen, but it’s certainly an interesting concept that would add something brand new to the smart car industry.
What is most significant about the AR display and what separates it from current autonomous efforts is the fact that it can use data that is far removed from what the cars’ sensors can actually see. With knowledge of upcoming data that can be displayed far in advance of the moment a driver would need it, the Apple Car may be able to provide a good deal of safety in addition to the convenience such a feature would provide.
It’s important to remember that a patent is by no means a guarantee that we’ll ever see the AR display make it into an Apple Car – or even a confirmation that a consumer-facing Apple Car is in development. However, it’s clear that Apple has some technology in the works that would either make it into one of their own vehicles or sold to another company in order to integrate that tech in their own devices. Apple is currently using 45 autonomous vehicles in tests in California, so it will be interesting to see if they can translate these test cars into a product family that sees the same success as their wildly popular electronics.