Let the Apple Car rumors roll on. Apple has been granted a patent (US 11693414 B2) for “non-solid object monitoring” to help a vehicle navigate through inclement weather conditions such as fog.
About the patent
Th patent relates generally to autonomous navigation, and in particular to an autonomous navigation system which can detect and avoid non-solid objects in an environment. Apple says that, in some cases, autonomous navigation is enabled via an autonomous navigation system (ANS) which can process and respond to detection of various elements in an external environment, including static features (e.g., roadway lanes, road signs, etc.).
They also also process and respond to dynamic features (present locations of other vehicles in a roadway on which the route extends, present locations of pedestrians, present environmental conditions, roadway obstructions, etc.) along a route in real-time as they are encountered, thereby replicating the real-time processing and driving capabilities of a human being.
Also, in some cases, autonomous navigation includes navigating a vehicle in response to detection of one or more objects located in the environment through which the vehicle is being navigated. For example, where another vehicle is detected ahead of the navigated vehicle and is determined to be moving slower than the navigated vehicle, such that the navigated vehicle is approaching the other vehicle, the navigated vehicle can be slowed or stopped. In another example, where a pedestrian is identified near an edge of the roadway along which the vehicle is being navigated, the vehicle can be slowed or stopped in response to detection of the pedestrian.
Of course, inclement weather conditions such as rain and fog can make such actions difficult. Apple’s idea is for a vehicle with sensing apparatuses structured to detect and characterize solid objects in the external environment. For example, a vehicle can include one or more radars, ultrasonic sensors, light beam scanning devices, visible light camera devices, infrared camera devices, near-infrared camera devices, depth camera devices which can include one or more light-scanning devices, including LIDAR devices, etc. and an ANS which detects and characterizes objects in the environment based on reflection of radar waves, ultrasonic waves, light beams, etc. from solid surfaces of the objects in the environment.
Summary of the patent
Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent: “An autonomous navigation system may navigate through an environment in which one or more non-solid objects, including gaseous and/or liquid objects, are located. Non-solid objects may be determined, using sensor data, to present an obstacle or interference based on determined chemical composition, size, position, velocity, concentration, etc. of the objects.”
When might we see an Apple Car?
On. Nov. 18, 2021, Bloomberg reported that Apple is accelerating development on its “Apple Car.” The article says the electric vehicle will be self-driving and could roll out in 2025.
What’s more, in a note to clients — as noted by AppleInsider — investment bank Wedbush says Apple is likely to announce a strategic electric vehicle partnership in 2022 to lay the groundwork for an “Apple Car” release in 2025.