Apple won 66 Patents today covering Depth Mapping using Time-of-Flight Sensing, a Vehicle Steering System and more
Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 66 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. In this particular report we briefly cover iPhone cameras that uses depth mapping with a radiation source; and another Project Titan patent about a steering system. Our report also covers a design patent for Apple Store display systems and, as always, we wrap up this week's granted patent report with our traditional listing of the remaining granted patents that were issued to Apple today.
Calibration of Depth Sensing
When the iPhone 12 debuted, Apple made a big deal about LiDAR making Night Mode a reality. Apple's marketing states: "Night mode comes to both the Wide and Ultra-Wide cameras, and it’s better than ever at capturing incredibly low-light shots. LiDAR makes Night mode portraits possible."
In early January 2021 Patently Apple posted a report titled "Sony has Reportedly signed a 3-Year Deal with Apple for next-gen 'Direct Time-of-Flight' LiDAR scanners for iPhone 13 & beyond." This is going to be the next step for LiDAR on an iPhone.
Today, the U.S. Patent Office granted Apple their second patent relating to calibration of depth. More specifically "to systems and methods for depth mapping, and particularly to beam sources and sensor arrays used in time-of-flight sensing.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a schematic side view of a depth mapping system #20; FIG. 3A below is a schematic representation of a pattern of spots projected onto a target scene; FIG. 3B is a schematic frontal view of a ToF sensing array; and FIG. 3C is a schematic detail view of a part of the ToF sensing array of FIG. 3B, onto which images of the spots in a region of the target scene of FIG. 3A are cast.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 is an illustration showing an example configuration for steering actuator modules of the steering system.
In Apple’s second granted patent, Apple added 20 new patent claims to enhance and protect this invention. Apple’s first granted patent had all 20 patent claims covering “A Method.” In Apple’s latest granted patent, the 20 new patent claims are split between adding 11 more claims dealing with “A Method” and claims covering a “Depth Sensing Apparatus” which wasn’t covered in the first granted patent. The first new patent claim is presented in full below:
New Patent Claim #1: “Depth sensing apparatus, comprising: a radiation source, which is configured to emit a first number of beams of light pulses toward a target scene; an array of a second number of sensing elements, configured to output signals indicative of respective times of incidence of photons on the sensing element, wherein the first number is greater than one, and the second number exceeds the first number; light collection optics configured to image the target scene onto the array of sensing elements; and processing and control circuitry, which is coupled to receive the signals from the array and is configured to select a set of the sensing elements in respective candidate regions of the array in which the reflected light pulses are likely to be incident, and to perform an iterative search over the sensing elements in the array starting with each of the candidate regions while operating the radiation source and receiving the signals, in order to identify, responsively to the signals, respective regions of the array on which the beams of light pulses reflected from the target scene are incident, and to process the signals from the sensing elements in the identified regions in order determine respective times of arrival of the light pulses.”
To review Apple’s latest granted patent 11,371,833 titled “Calibration of depth sensing using a sparse array of pulsed beams,” and the remaining 19 patent claims, click here.
Steer-by-Wire System with Multiple Steering Actuators
Last week (June 22, 2022), Patently Apple posted a report titled “Contrary to the facts known so far, Volkswagen’s CEO Bizarrely believes that Apple’s Project Titan is going to be limited to Software.” Our report pointed to the fact that Apple’s engineering team that’s associated with Project Titan had filed numerous technical aspects of future vehicles that dealt with the mechanics of a future vehicle and not just dashboard software as CEO Herbert Diess alluded to. Patently Apple has covered 125 Apple patents focused on various aspects of a vehicle.
Today, Apple was granted another Project Titan (an Electric Vehicle Project) relating to a steering system at the mechanical level and not software.
Vehicle actuators are controllable systems that cause or affect motion of a vehicle. Examples of vehicle actuators are propulsion actuators, braking actuators, steering actuators, and suspension actuators. Steer-by-wire systems can eliminate or disconnect a physical connection between a steering wheel (also referred to as a hand wheel) and the road wheels.
Apple's invention specifically relates to systems and methods that control feedback supplied to the operator of the vehicle based on operating states at each of the four wheels of the vehicle. As an example, a feedback torque may be determined based on component torques for each of one or more operating conditions at each of the steered wheels.
One aspect of the invention covers a method for controlling a vehicle. The method includes operating a steering system in manual steer-by-wire control state, determining that a transition to an automated steer-by-wire control state is to be performed by the steering system, obtaining manual steering angles and automated steering angles, determining blended steering angles using a blending function during the transition to the automated steer-by-wire control state, and controlling steering actuators using the blended steering angles during the transition to the automated steer-by-wire control state.
A secondary method includes receiving a steering wheel angle value that represents a manual steering input at a steering wheel and a steering wheel torque that represents manually-applied steering torque at the steering wheel, and receiving steering actuator information describing operating conditions for steering actuators.
The method also includes determining component torques for each of the steering actuators using one or more feedback models based on the steering actuator information and the steering wheel angle value, determining a feedback torque based on the component torques and the steering wheel torque, and applying the feedback torque to the steering wheel using a feedback actuator.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 below is an illustration showing an example configuration for steering actuator modules of the steering system.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 above is an illustration showing an example configuration for a steering column module of the steering system.
This is Apple’s second granted patent for this invention. The first granted patent covered 18 patent claims exclusively covering “A method for controlling a vehicle.” In today’s granted patent, Apple has added 20 new patent claims that introduces 10 new claims covering “A Steering System” and 10 additional claims regarding “A method for controlling a vehicle.” The first new patent claim covering “A Steering System” is presented below:
New Patent Claim #1: “A steering system, comprising: an actuator configured to control motion of a road wheel of a vehicle; a steering wheel configured to generate inputs for the actuator in a manual steer-by-wire control state; and a controller configured to: determine operating conditions for the actuator, the steering wheel, or both; determine blended steering angles based on manual steering angles of the steering wheel, manual road wheel angles based on the manual steering angles, and automated steering angles based on external road wheel angles received as part of external commands, the automated steering angles associated with an automated steer-by-wire control state; transition operation of the steering system from the manual steer-by-wire control state to the automated steer-by-wire control state when all operating conditions are satisfied and using a blending function, wherein the blending function applies weighting values to the manual steering angles and the automated steering angles to determine the blended steering angles, and wherein the weighting values depend on a difference between the manual road wheel angles and the external road wheel angles; and control the actuator using the blended steering angles.”
To review Apple’s granted patent 11,370,475 and the remaining 19 new patent claims, click here.
A Key Granted Design Patent
Today’s Remaining Granted Patents