Apple wins a Project Titan Patent related to an Advanced Nighttime Sensing System with 3X the Power of Traditional Headlights
Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent that relates to Project Titan and more specifically to multi-modal sensing for nighttime autonomous driving object detection and recognition. The superiority of the new system over traditional headlights when driving at night is going to save a lot of lives in the future.
Overall Apple's invention covers implementations of multi-modal sensing for nighttime autonomous driving object detection and recognition.
Apple explains that nighttime or low-light environments present challenges for automated vehicle control systems. For example, the illumination level provided by headlights on a vehicle at night may be limited by laws or regulations, which may in turn limit the effective range of a visible spectrum sensor (e.g., a camera) used for detecting objects in or near the path of the vehicle.
Having a limited effective range (e.g., about 60 meters = 180 feet) for detecting and or classifying objects can reduce safety and/or reduce the speed at which the vehicle can travel safely.
A combination of multiple complimentary image sensing technologies may be employed to address the challenges of nighttime or low-light environment object detection and classification. For example, there may be looser or no restrictions on the illumination level of a near infrared illuminator mounted on a vehicle.
A near infrared sensor with a near infrared illuminator can be configured to capture high resolution image information about objects in or near a path of the vehicle out to a significantly longer range (e.g., 200 meters = 600 feet) from the vehicle.
The techniques described in Apple's patent application may provide improvements over prior computer vision systems for automated vehicles. Some implementations may increase the effective range at which objects in or near the path of a vehicle may be detected and classified. Some implementations may more accurately classify objects in a low-light environment. Safety of an automated vehicle control system may be improved and/or the maximum safe speed in low-light environments may be increased.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 below is a block diagram of an example of a vehicle configured for multi-modal sensing for nighttime autonomous object detection and recognition; FIG. 7 is a diagram of an example of overlapping fields of view for multiple sensors of different types mounted on a vehicle.
For more details, you could review our original patent application report here or review Apple's granted patent 10,949,679.