Apple won a patent relating to a Road Surface Monitoring System for Future Autonomous & Semi-Autonomous Vehicles
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office issued Apple a granted patent that relates to Project Titan, and more specifically, to road surface monitoring and methods for detecting low friction conditions in upcoming road surfaces such as ice and more.
Road surface conditions, such as ice patches, water puddles, road irregularities, and the like, are a consistent challenge for vehicles traveling on such surfaces. Conventionally, many vehicles are unable to detect and respond to such conditions in advance and instead merely assist the driver in regaining control of the vehicle once the dynamics of the vehicle are changing as a result of the road surface condition. For example, stability control systems, traction control systems, and the like facilitate recapture of vehicle control in low-traction event (e.g., a skidding event, a hydroplaning event, etc.) caused by a road surface condition.
Detecting and avoiding road surface conditions, however, remains reliant on the driver, who may be prone to error and slow reaction time. It is with these observations in mind, among others, that various aspects of the present disclosure were conceived and developed.
Aspects of Apple's patent covers technology related to systems and methods for surface monitoring. In one aspect, a road surface monitoring system includes an optical system mounted on a vehicle and configured to measure one or more surface properties of a target surface ahead of the vehicle on a road. The optical system illuminates and images the target surface with structured illumination, multiple wavelength bands, and/or polarized light to measure the surface properties of the target surface.
The measured surface properties are used to generate a set of friction metrics for the target surface. For example, using structured illumination, a surface texture of the target surface may be measured and a surface profile generated.
In addition or alternative to the surface profile, differential absorption of the multiple wavelength bands and polarization intensity may be measured and used to generate a surface type and a surface specularity, respectively, for the target surface. The friction metrics are used to determine an estimated coefficient of friction for the target surface. The coefficient of friction provides optimized information about the road to permit the driver and/or the vehicle to identify and proactively respond to road surface conditions, including low friction conditions that may cause, for example, a low-traction event.
Lastly, Apple notes that the disclosed technology is applicable in other contexts, including, without limitation, road administration, identifying or monitoring road damage or degradation, altering a navigation path for one or more vehicles, and a variety of other scenarios involving the detection of road conditions and actions in response thereto.
Apple's FIG. 1 below is a diagram of an example road surface monitoring system; FIG. 2 illustrates an example optical system for measuring one or more surface properties of a target surface; and FIG. 3 is a block diagram of an example system for surface monitoring of a road.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 below illustrates example operations for surface monitoring of a road.
For more details, review Apple's granted patent US 11544863 B2.