Apple Wins Autonomous Vehicle Patent that provides an iPhone user with an Advanced 'Guidance System' to Fine Tune Destinations
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 54 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover a patent win relating to systems that will allow an iPhone user owning an autonomous vehicle to give added commands to the vehicle about a destination. The system could be given precise parking instructions like "park near Best Buy" and further allow the user to fine tune instructions by using gestures on the iPhone's touch display as noted in our cover graphic.
Guidance of Autonomous Vehicles using Intent Signals
Vehicles which are capable of sensing their environment and navigating to destinations with little or no ongoing input from occupants are referred to as "autonomous" or "self-driving" vehicles. Given the multiplicity of choices that are typically available with respect to vehicle trajectories in real-world environments, occupant input or guidance with regard to selecting vehicle trajectories (without requiring traditional steering, braking, accelerating and the like) may be extremely valuable to the motion control components of such vehicles.
However, providing interfaces for such guidance which are intuitive and easy to use, especially within environments such as parking lots for which detailed and/or accurate mapping data may not be available, may present a non-trivial challenge.
Apple's patent covers various embodiments of methods and apparatus for guidance of autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles in destination vicinities using intent signals are described. In at least some embodiments, a method may comprise obtaining, at a navigation manager implemented using one or more computing devices, an indication of a destination of a vehicle (such as a large retail store, an office complex, a shopping mall or the like), where the vicinity of the destination comprises numerous vehicle stopping points (such as parking spaces).
A route towards the destination may be identified, and the vicinity of the destination may be reached. At this point, finer-grained guidance regarding the actual stopping point of the vehicle may be needed. The method may further comprise detecting, using one or more sensors, one or more signals generated by an individual authorized or permitted to provide guidance with respect to movements of the vehicle.
In embodiments in which the vehicle comprises the equivalent of a conventional steering wheel, the authorized individual is assumed to be one who is not currently steering the vehicle using the steering wheel. The signals may be usable to determine a path, corresponding to an intent or goal of the individual, towards a particular vehicle stopping point in the vicinity of the destination. At least some of the signals may be obtained via a sensor that is mechanically decoupled from steering subsystems of the vehicle--so, for example, if the vehicle comprises a steering wheel or an analogous steering component, such signals may be detected using sensor devices which are not physically attached to or part of the steering wheel or steering component.
Any of a variety of signal modalities and/or interfaces may be used singly or in combination to discover the intent of the authorized individual in various embodiments. For example, in some cases, the individual may gesture towards an intended parking space in a parking area, and combine the gesture with the voice command "Park over there."
In another embodiment, the individual may use a touch-sensitive interface, such as a screen of a mobile phone or tablet device, to mark an intended stopping point, trace a path towards a particular area or stopping point, or indicate an intended direction of motion via a virtual joy-stick interface.
In some embodiments, the signals may comprise a voice command indicating a landmark or sign which may be visible from the vehicle, such as the equivalent of "Park near the gardening supplies entrance" or "Park near the cafeteria entrance".
Based at least in part on the detected signals and at least in part on a data set indicative of the external environment of the vehicle (such as data collected via one or more externally-oriented cameras of the vehicle), one or more vehicular movements which would enable progress to be made along a path towards an intended stopping point may be determined by the navigation manager.
The method may further comprise transmitting a first directive to one or more motion control subsystems of the vehicle (such as an acceleration subsystem, a braking subsystem, a steering/turning subsystem and so on) to initiate at least a first vehicular movement of the one or more vehicular movements.
Apple's patent FIG. 2 below illustrates an example parking lot within which navigation decisions may be made by components of an autonomous vehicle based on intent signals; FIG. 3 illustrates an example interaction between a navigation manager of an autonomous vehicle and an occupant of the vehicle.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 below illustrates an example vehicle environment comprising a plurality of sensors which may collect data that can be analyzed to determine the intended tasks or goals of individuals authorized to provide navigation guidance: FIG. 6 illustrates an example touch-based virtual joystick interface which may be used by a vehicle occupant to indicate desired movements of the vehicle relative to its current position.
Apple's patent FIG. 8 below illustrates an example scenario in which a gesture made using a handheld computing device or phone may be used to provide navigation guidance.
Apple's granted patent 10,372,132 was originally filed in Q4 2017 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Some of the Inventors
Karlin Bark: Interaction Architecture and Experience Prototyping
Sawyer Cohen: Manager iPhone Product design
Scott Herz: Engineering Manager
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