Apple Wins a Project Titan Patent Covering a new Suspension & High-End Haptics System to Improve Driver Situational Awareness
Last Summer Patently Apple posted a report titled "Apple's Autonomous Cars will Introduce a Unique 'Countdown Indicator' that Prepares Passengers of a coming Maneuver." The patent described how a driver could put a car into autonomous mode and feel comfortable that the vehicle will effectively communicate its intentions to both the driver and passengers. For instance, if the car was about to make a lane change, it would notify the occupants that such an event would occur in a number of seconds and provide a countdown either visually on a dashboard or via a digital assistant's voice. The first generation of autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles must put drivers at ease to overcome natural fears of a runaway vehicle.
This week Apple was granted yet another Project Titan patent related to vehicles, autonomous or not. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published Apple's granted patent number 10,300,760 titled "Fully-Actuated Suspension System."
According to Apple, the invention covers a fully-actuated suspension system which can provide adjustable displacement of a sprung mass from a neutral suspension position over an unsprung mass.
While it's a highly technical patent that car enthusiasts may enjoy diving into for details later, for consumers, the result of this invention is that it will be a part of Apple's ongoing Project Titan that is set to make the shift to next-generation vehicles that will be smarter while providing autonomous features and options. A part of this invention covers an autonomous navigation system and an active safety system.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below illustrates a vehicle which includes a fully-actuated suspension system; FIG. 4 illustrates a vehicle which includes a fully-actuated suspension system, comprising a control system and a set of suspension actuators coupled to separate wheel assemblies, where the control system is configured to independently control the suspension actuators to at least communicate information to one or more occupants of the vehicle via haptic feedback
Apple's patent FIG. 5 above illustrates controlling one or more sets of suspension actuators in a vehicle to provide haptic feedback to a driver of the vehicle.
A Few Interesting Patent Points
The system includes a variable pressure air spring which can adjust the neutral suspension position and execute low-frequency displacements and a hydraulically-driven piston which can execute high-frequency displacements. The system can communicate information to a driver, via haptic feedback provided via actuator displacements, which can augment the driver's situational awareness. The system can provide augmented vehicle braking.
The system can compensate for vehicle oscillations at frequencies below the primary ride frequency, thereby mitigating the risk of occupant motion sickness.
The most interesting features are found under their Haptic Feedback segment. Here Apple notes that in some embodiments, a fully-actuated suspension system included in a vehicle provides haptic feedback, also referred to herein as kinesthetic communication, to one or more occupants of the vehicle, including a driver of the vehicle, based on particular actuations of one or more suspension actuators included in the fully-actuated suspension system.
Such communication can include communicating information regarding one or more aspects of the external environment through which the vehicle is being navigated, communicating information regarding one or more traffic participants located in the external environment, communicating information regarding navigation of the vehicle along a driving route through the external environment, communicating information regarding a state of the vehicle, some combination thereof, etc.
In some embodiments, one or more of the suspension actuators in the fully-actuated suspension system can be actuated to perform one or more non-driving functions, including inducing a low frequency rocking motion of the vehicle cabin to induce sleep in one or more occupants, including a child occupant.
Haptic feedback can leverage a driver's utilization of tactile feedback, also referred to as "touch and feel", as a source of information about the vehicle, road surface, and surrounding environment.
Some surfaces, including one or more roadways, can include various devices, including rumble strips, raised lane markers, and speed bumps, which can communicate information to a driver via tactile feedback through the vehicle. Haptic feedback can thus provide an effective and intuitive mechanism for communicating information to a driver, which can result in an improved situational awareness of the driver.
Because haptic feedback does not rely on visual cues, haptic feedback can be an effective mechanism for getting a driver's attention, alerting the driver to a hazard that cannot be seen, alerting the driver to a hazard without requiring the driver to divert visual attention, etc.
A set of actuators provides one or more cues, alerts, etc. to a driver of the vehicle, including alerting the driver to departure from the lane in which the vehicle is navigating, alerting the driver to proximate traffic participants (e.g., other vehicles navigating on a common roadway with the vehicle, pedestrians, obstacles in the roadway, etc.).
Apple's granted patent 10,300,760 was originally filed in Q1 2016 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office. The patent shows us that the patent application was never made public. It went from filing the application and then receiving a granted patent. So this is the first time that this invention was made public as an invention owned by Apple. You can review the patent here for details and more patent figures.
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