The Apple self-driving car dream is possibly still very much alive, and the latest hint comes from a patent application by the company. Referred to as “intent signals,” the technology would somehow get to know where the owner wants to go and then go to that destination.
To rely on “Intent Signals”
Over the years, there have been innumerable rumors surrounding the Apple self-driving car. Lately, the frequency of such rumors has slowed as there have been no details from Apple for a while. However, this latest patent related to the Apple self-driving car could again put the rumor mills in action.
First spotted by Patently Apple, the patent talks about “intent signals.” Under this, one method would be to use an indirect steering wheel or joystick to navigate the car. The technology would not require the steering wheel to be connected to the car mechanically, but would guide the electronics in the right direction. The patent, however, is mostly concerned with indirect methods. Say the owner directed the car to drive him to a large retail store. Once the car reaches there, it would ask for further guidance.
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For instance, if an owner says, “I’d like to buy some plants for my garden,” when near the large retail store, the navigation manager may determine that the vehicle should be parked near the entrance marked “gardening” or “gardening supplies.”
Apple self-driving car may work on gestures as well
Apple also seems to be working on gestures, if the illustrations in the patent are anything to go by. One of the pictures shows the owner asking the car to “park over there” while talking on the phone. Even though the owner is just pointing their finger, the car would deploy the phone’s accelerometer to identify the spot that the owner is referring to. It would ask the owner something like, “Did you mean park near <object 845> or near <object 855>?”
Gesture control is now being used in more and more devices, including toys such as Sphero’s Force Band. The toy can move a robotic BB-8 by moving the arm in certain directions. Likewise, the Android smartwatches can also perform actions with a move of the hand. Apple iPhone X already has gesture controls. Then, there is Raven, a navigational device for cars, which would record the road when a driver waves in front of it.
Despite their growing usage, gesture controls are yet to go mainstream in cars. But with Apple reportedly embedding it, it won’t take much time for gesture controls to find a permanent place in more machines.
Self-driving program to boost service revenue
The Apple self-driving car program – known as Project Titan – received permission to test its cars on the road in California in April 2017. Recently, there were reports that Apple doubled the fleet size for the driverless test program from 27 to 55. Despite such efforts, Apple is lagging behind Waymo, which is already preparing for the next phase of testing.
According to California’s DMV self-driving permit program, only two companies – Waymo and the other one unnamed – have applied for the state’s truly driverless testing program, which means the vehicles would be empty when running on the road. Talking of the carmaker that has the most number of permits to test drive on the California road, GM’s Cruise automation takes the top spot, notes Mashable.
Just last month there were reports that to accelerate the project, Apple has joined hands with Volkswagen to convert some of the automaker’s passenger vans into self-driving vehicles. Under the partnership, Apple would turn the Volkswagen T6 Transporter vans into autonomous vans for Apple’s employees. Having Volkswagen by its side could help Apple’s self-driving car dream a great deal. The project so far has reportedly been marred by employee turnover.
Venture Capitalist Gene Munster believes that Apple’s autonomous tech offerings to Volkswagen marks Apple’s expansion in the service business. Munster, who is the founder of Loup Ventures, believes that autonomous software and service would be a big upside for the stock. Even if Apple does not come up with the vehicle design, it would still benefit by offering its car services, the expert said, according to CNBC.
Munster added that the concept of an autonomous service is a “departure from Apple’s current hardware and content services business…. That said, we believe, given the complexities of manufacturing a car (just ask Tesla) and the size of the opportunity, it makes sense for Apple to partner their way to autonomy.”
Further, Morgan Stanley is confident about Apple’s service portfolio adding that the market is largely undervaluing the service business of the company. In the coming five years, the service business would represent 67% of Apple’s sales growth, predicts Morgan Stanley.