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Apple, the tech giant known for revolutionizing the mobile phone and personal computer industries, has been making headlines with its rumored entry into the autonomous vehicle market. While the company has been tight-lipped about its plans, a recent patent granted to Apple suggests that the company is continuing to develop advanced technology for its potential Apple Car.
The patent, titled “Systems and methods for night vision combining sensor image types” (US 11600075 B2), focuses on multi-modal sensing for nighttime autonomous object detection and recognition. As autonomous vehicles rely heavily on sensor data to identify objects in their environment, the processing of this data is often subject to real-time constraints to facilitate navigation and control of the vehicle.
Apple’s patent aims to improve the night vision of its potential Apple Car, providing advanced safety features for drivers and passengers alike.
According to the patent, the system will use a combination of long-wave infrared sensors and near-infrared sensors to detect and classify objects in low-light conditions. The patent explains that the system will first obtain a long-wave infrared image, detect an object, and identify a region of interest associated with that object.
The control parameter of a near-infrared sensor will then be adjusted based on the data associated with the region of interest, and a near-infrared image will be obtained. Finally, the system will determine the classification of the object based on the data from the near-infrared image associated with the region of interest.
While the patent provides insight into Apple’s potential plans for its Apple Car, the company has scaled back its ambitions for a self-driving electric vehicle. According to a report by Bloomberg, Apple has postponed the launch of its vehicle back to 2026 and plans to sell the car for “under” $100,000. The vehicle will have guided driving features that work on highways, but won’t be fully autonomous.
Additionally, Apple wanted its vehicle to come without a steering wheel or pedals but has since decided that such a plan isn’t feasible at this time. Instead, the Apple Car will allow drivers to conduct other tasks, such as watching a movie or playing a game, on a freeway and will alert the driver with ample time to switch over to manual control if necessary.
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The vehicle will be powered by an Apple-designed custom processor that will handle the AI functionality, and the company may use the cloud for some AI processing. Apple may also offer a remote command center that could assist drivers and control cars from afar during emergencies, and the company may offer its own insurance program.
While Apple is still working in a “pre-prototype” stage and has not dialed in on a design for its first vehicle, the company’s continued research, and development in advanced technology for autonomous vehicles is sure to keep the rumor mill spinning.