Apple Invents a Smart Headlights system for Semi-Autonomous and Robotic Vehicles that automatically adjust to road conditions & more
In the last month there's been a series of Project Titan patents that have come to light (01, 02 and 03) and yesterday the US Patent & Trademark Office published yet another one relating to lighting systems. In this patent, Apple describes a semi-autonomous vehicle and one that is described as an "autonomous robot – vehicle" with no human passengers. I'm taking it for granted that this also means no robot or alien passengers; but who knows (😊)?
Vehicles with Automatic Headlight Alignment
Automobiles and other vehicles have lights such as headlights. To accommodate different driving conditions, headlights are sometimes provided with adjustable settings such as low beam and high beam settings. Some headlights can be steered during operation to accommodate road curvature.
In this patent Apple describes a smart vehicle as a "robot" e.g., an "autonomous robot" or other vehicle that doesn't carry human passengers.
The invention covers a system for a vehicle or other system that may have components that emit light such as headlights and other lights. Headlights may be used to illuminate roadways and other objects in the vicinity of a vehicle. The illumination provided by the headlights allows vehicle occupants to view the objects at night or in other dim ambient lighting conditions and facilitates the operation of sensors. For example, headlight illumination at visible and/or infrared wavelengths may be used to provide illumination for image sensors that are used by an autonomous driving system or driver's assistance system.
The illumination that is emitted by the headlights in a vehicle may be adjustable. For example, the headlights may have adjustable components that allow the headlights to be operated in high-beam and low-beam modes and to be steered to the left and right (e.g., to accommodate curves in a road). If desired, headlight adjustments may be made to calibrate the headlights. In this way, unintended misalignment of the headlights over time may be prevented.
To help ensure that headlights are properly aligned and therefore emit light beams in desired directions, a vehicle sensor such as a three-dimensional sensor may gather information on an object within range of the headlights.
For example, a lidar sensor may be used to map the three-dimensional shape of a roadway and an object on the roadway in front of a vehicle. An image sensor in the vehicle can measure the pattern of illumination from the headlights that falls on the roadway and object.
Measurements of headlight illumination reveal the direction in which a headlight is pointing. By comparing the expected illumination (e.g., the expected headlight illumination direction) with the measured illumination (e.g., the measured headlight illumination direction), variations in headlight performance can be detected and corrective action taken.
If, as an example, it is determined that the headlights are pointed 5° too high, a positioner coupled to the headlights may be directed to automatically tilt the headlights downward by 5° to compensate for this measured misalignment. In this way, the headlights may be continually adjusted during use of the vehicle to ensure that the headlights operate satisfactorily.
The headlights may also be adjusted based on measured and predicated changes in vehicle orientation relative to a roadway and other measured and predicated conditions.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a side view of a portion of an illustrative vehicle. There are two possible types of vehicles. The vehicle #10 may carry passengers (e.g., an automobile, truck, or other automotive vehicle). A second type of vehicle is one characterized as a robot (e.g., an autonomous robot) or other vehicle that does not carry human passengers; FIG. 2 is a side view of an illustrative adjustable headlight system; FIG. 3 is a perspective view of an illustrative scene with a target being illuminated by headlights.
Apple's patent FIG. 7 above is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative vehicle with headlights and sensor circuitry; FIG. 4 is a graph showing how headlight performance can be monitored by measuring headlight illumination intensity as a function of position across an illuminated surface.
For greater details, review Apple's patent application # US 20230001847 A1.
- Chris Child: Product Design Engineer – Autonomous Systems (previously worked at Toyota and Fisker Automotive.
- Clarisse Mazuir: Lighting and sensors lead at Apple SPG
- Kurt Stiehl: Product Design Director - Special Projects
- Mikael Mannberg: Engineering Manager
- Ryan Garrone: Hardware Engineering Manager, Special Projects
- Xiaofeng Tang: Product Design Engineer