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A European Patent Filing from Apple this Week describes a new Climate Control System for Vehicles



On Wednesday we reported that Apple's Project Titan team was preparing to test out a new on-campus EV Shuttle Service. It was positive evidence that the project was really taking shape. Earlier today Patently Apple discovered a surprising patent application from Apple in the European Patent Office's database that once again relates to Project Titan. According to Apple's filing, the invention "relates to climate control in various regions of a vehicle cabin, which can include an automobile cabin." Our cover graphic illustrates patent figure 6 which represents a climate control user interface that allows the driver to set the climate condition for each of the four passenger compartments. The user interface is likely to be tied into CarPlay.


Patent Background


Vehicle climate control systems often rely upon one or more air-conditioning units, also referred to herein as an "ACU", and one or more heater units, to control a climate in various portions of a vehicle cabin. Such control can include directing air, at least partially conditioned or heated by one or more elements, into various regions of the vehicle cabin, also referred to herein as "cabin regions", via various air vents located throughout the cabin, heating various surfaces in the cabin through heating elements, etc.


In some cases, such control is at least partially implemented by a climate control system included in the vehicle. The climate control system can respond to user commands, provided via one or more interfaces in the vehicle, including dials, knobs, touch-screen interfaces, etc. In some cases, the climate control system can generate a particular configuration of some climate control components to effect a particular change in climate conditions in one or more cabin regions and generate output commands to the climate control components to achieve the generated configuration. For example, based at least in part upon a user interacting with a climate control system interface to command that a particular cabin region have a particular air temperature, the climate control system can generate a configuration of air vents, ACUs, heater units, etc. which changes the air temperature in the cabin region to the particular temperature and generate one or more sets of output commands to various vehicle components, including air moving devices, heater units, ACUs, etc. to implement the configuration to achieve the user-commanded climate condition in the cabin region.


In some cases, climate conditions in a vehicle cabin may be relatively uncomfortable for the occupant(s) therein, particularly when such occupants initially enter the vehicle cabin from an exterior environment, when the vehicle has been turned-off in an exterior environment for a period of time, some combination thereof, etc. For example, when a vehicle is left outdoors on a hot day, the interior temperature may reach temperatures well in excess of the exterior temperature, and reducing the interior temperature to a more comfortable level may require an extended period of operation of the ACU at a high operating level. In another example, where an overheated individual enters the vehicle cabin, the user may desire that the vehicle cabin climate conditions be rapidly changed.


However, some climate control systems may be limited in providing such functionality. For example, airflow provided into the cabin from various cabin air vents, and conditioning or heating of such airflow and various cabin surfaces may not provide sufficient granularity in climate control of one or more particular cabin regions occupied by one or more occupants to provide comfortable climate conditions to the occupants. Climate control systems may be limited in a capacity to anticipate optimal configurations (e.g., operating settings) of various climate control components for various situations, and for various particular users.


In addition, some climate control components, when operating at a high level of operation to rapidly change climate conditions, can induce an uncomfortable experience for some occupants, thereby becoming counterproductive with regard to the purpose of providing comfort to the occupants. For example, an air vent which is expelling conditioned air into the cabin at a maximum vent flow rate may result in the occupant experiencing an uncomfortable sensation due to a high velocity of an airflow flowing in contact with one or more sensitive areas of the occupant's body.


Apple's Patent Summary


In Apple's patent summary they note that the patent figures presented in their filing provide a vehicle climate control system for controlling climate conditions in various cabin regions of a vehicle cabin, where the climate control system is configured to control one or more vehicle components to change the set of climate conditions associated with one or more cabin regions to approximate a set of optimal comfort conditions.


The climate control system is configured to control various vehicle components to control climate conditions, including window assemblies, sunroof assemblies, etc.


The climate control system is configured to determine optimal comfort conditions, for one or more cabin regions which optimize perceived temperature of various occupant body parts and maintain various climate characteristics, including airflow, humidity, temperature, etc. within one or more sets of thresholds.


Output configurations of various vehicle components can be determined based at least in part upon determined optimal comfort conditions of various cabin regions. Output commands to various vehicle components can be generated based at least in part upon generated output configurations of the various vehicle components.


Optimal comfort conditions, output configurations, output commands, etc. can be generated based at least in part upon determinations that one or more external users are anticipated to occupy one or more cabin regions. Output configurations can be generated based at least in part upon various control mode priorities including priorities which prioritize minimizing vehicle component energy usage, priorities which prioritize minimizing elapsed time to change climate conditions to approximate optimal comfort conditions, some combination thereof, etc.


Apple's patent FIG. 1A presented below illustrates a schematic diagram of a vehicle including a vehicle climate control system and interactions between such a climate control system and various vehicle components and systems internal and external to the vehicle.


2AF X99 FIG. 1A

Apple's patent FIG. 2 noted below illustrates a block diagram of a vehicle climate control system, various inputs into the climate control system from various input data sources, and various outputs from the climate control system to various vehicle components.



Apple's patent FIG. 3 below illustrates a block diagram of an input data module included in a climate control system.


4 af x 99 fig. 3 apple climate control vehicle system  

Apple's patent FIG. 5 below illustrates a block diagram of a processing module included in a climate control system.




A Few Standout Points


In some embodiments, one or more internal sensors are configured to measure environmental conditions in multiple cabin regions. For example, one or more internal sensors can comprise a camera device configured to monitor temperatures associated with various cabin surfaces, including portions of one or more seats, in one or more cabin regions.


In addition, one or more internal sensors can comprise a camera device configured to monitor body temperatures of one or more particular body parts of one or more particular occupants of one or more regions. Sensor data generated by the various internal sensors can be communicated to the climate control system via one or more communication conduits.


In order to keep the climate controlled in the vehicle Apple describes some next-gen types of sensors such as a radiance sensor which measures solar radiance on a particular window included in a particular window assembly of the vehicle 102, a radiance sensor which measures solar radiance on a particular sunroof included in a particular sunroof assembly of the vehicle.


Other sensors could include a humidity sensor which measures relative humidity of the external environment, a wind sensor which measures wind velocity, flowrate, etc. at one or more locations which are proximate to one or more particular portions of the exterior of the vehicle.


Users with particular health conditions will be able to allow the vehicle's built-in communications system to access their medical history information to see if they have high or low blood pressure or another condition that would require the climate control system to adjust that passenger's particular seat quadrant to a certain temperature.


The climate control system has external sensors that could determine types of precipitation such as rain, hail, snow, sleet and ice in order to adjust vents and control humidity levels within the vehicle.


Users will be able to override a climate selection for the quadrant that they are sitting in with their iDevice and set preferences for the present and future.


According to the information from the European database, Apple's patent application was filed back in August 2015 and published on August 23, 2017. As noted below, the patent was listed in the European database twice with each time Apple Inc. being listed as the applicant. In the third proof below is from the patent office examiner. The patent filing is shown to have been made in Germany where the applicant is clearly shown as Apple Inc. No "inventors" have been listed and this could mean that the patent was acquired by Apple and they don't want a search of the inventor to reveal who previously owned the patent.


6AF X99 BIBLIO apple  climate control

7AFX 999  apple climate control wipo entry
8 German OFFICE filing  examiner  references Apple as applicant

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