Apple’s Project Titan has suffered many setbacks in the last few years ranging from the lack of focus to lack of expertise in the automobile market. The so-called Apple car seems to be taking shape slowly nonetheless. The Cupertino company remains tight-lipped about its automobile ambitions, but a recent patent application filed by the company in Europe hints that the Apple car could feature an innovative AR windshield screen.
The AR windshield will keep you distracted
In its patent application, Apple describes the smart augmented reality windshield system as Heads-up Display. It’s worth pointing out that most of the technologies detailed in patent applications never make it to final products. However, considering Apple is out there to revolutionize the automobile industry, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the AR windshield on Apple car if and when it arrives.
We have reached out to Apple about the AR windshield technology, but haven’t heard back. The Heads-up Display could be used for a variety of purposes. According to the patent filing, it could allow passengers to conduct FaceTime calls with other users, including people sitting in a separate vehicle.
In the future, passengers might be able to sit back in the self-driving Apple car and relax while the high-tech windshield screen serves them all the information they need. Of course, you could do all that on your iPhone. But it would be cool to experience the same stuff (and some more) on a bigger windshield screen.
Apple seems to have realized that the idea of a car driving all by itself could freak the passengers out. The Arizona accident where a self-driving Uber vehicle killed a pedestrian earlier this year hasn’t helped establish people’s faith in autonomous cars.
The patent application details internal sensors that could detect stress in passengers and drivers. The sensors would monitor posture, gestures, eye motion, body temperature, eye blinking, breathing rate, heart rate, and other aspects. Then the system will automatically adjust the AR windshield display to calm you down and potentially reduce stress. However, it is unclear how the screen would achieve it.
The AR windshield also has a set of external sensors to detect the vehicle’s speed as well as the posted speed limit. Passengers will be able to see all that information right on the windshield. It’s interesting to see Apple engineers exploring ideas and features that have never been seen on cars before.
Only time will tell whether the AR windshield will find its way into the Apple car. The Cupertino company has significantly stepped up its R&D efforts in recent years. Apple doesn’t reveal which projects it is spending its R&D money on. Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi estimates that the company spends $500 million to $1 billion a year on the Apple car project. Apple told investors recently that it spent a staggering $3.7 billion on R&D during the April-June quarter this year.
Will we ever see an Apple car?
Last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook acknowledged that the company was working on the autonomous driving technology. At the time, he described it as the “mother of all AI projects.” Cook hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Apple building its own self-driving car one day.
The iPhone maker is currently testing its autonomous driving systems using as many as 55 Lexus SUVs on California roads. Once Apple has developed the self-driving systems, it could either license the technology to other automakers or design its own cars.
Guggenheim Securities analyst Robert Cihra believes that Apple will eventually launch its own cars rather than licensing the self-driving technology to other automakers. Cars are outside of Apple’s core competency of iPhones, iPads, and Macs, but it’s a market worth pursuing.
Cihra points out that at its core, Apple is a “product company” with extensive expertise in the integration of software and hardware. It’s not in Apple’s DNA to license its core technologies to other vendors. It prefers to control the entire user experience.
Also, Apple needs new growth avenues as the smartphone market is saturating and Mac sales are declining. The automobile market represents a huge opportunity for the tech giant considering the total addressable market (TAM) is roughly $2 trillion. Even the luxury car market is worth $460 billion a year, says Robert Cihra.