Apple Wins a new Series of Project Titan Patents covering key Projector and Automated Steering Systems and more
Earlier this afternoon Patently Apple posted a report titled "A new Project Titan Patent from Apple covers an Autonomous Navigation System that includes an 'Intention Recognition' Module.'" Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published three granted patents relating to various Project Titan inventions covering a key projector system in addition to automated steering and ventilation systems.
A Key Vehicle Projector System
An autonomous vehicle includes numerous optical sensors configured to sense a surrounding environment around the vehicle. The optical sensors provide information regarding the environment to the vehicle such that the vehicle is spatially aware of the vehicle's surroundings in order to determine an appropriate action. Over time, the vehicle may encounter various impacts that may disrupt positioning of the sensors, such as bumps in a road, vibrations from driving or sudden stoppage while driving. These impacts can potentially cause the sensors to be out of alignment from original factory specifications. Unaligned or misaligned sensors can disrupt autonomy functions of the vehicle due to incorrect or misinterpreted data from the sensors. Apples granted patent provides a solution for this.
The first granted patent in this group covers multi-sensor real-time alignment systems and methods autonomous vehicles that may include numerous sensors to survey a surrounding environment. The sensors may include cameras, such as stereo cameras, or light dynamic and ranging (lidar) sensors.
More importantly, the invention introduces a vehicle projector system configured to project a pattern on a target location. The system also includes one or more sensors coupled to a vehicle. The one or more sensors may be configured to capture sensor data from the target location. The one or more sensors may also be configured to detect the pattern at the target location.
The vehicle further includes a calibration system. The calibration system is configured to determine whether a particular sensor of the one or more sensors is out of alignment based on a relative position of the pattern as detected by the one or more sensors. The calibration system is also configured to, based on a determination that the particular sensor is out of alignment, adjust an alignment of the particular sensor based on the sensor data and the diffractive pattern.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below illustrates a block diagram of a vehicle configured to calibrate one or more sensors based on a diffractive pattern projected at a target location; FIGS. 2a-c illustrate a vehicle having different types of sensors configured to sense an environment around the vehicle; FIG. 2d illustrates a vehicle configured to project a diffractive pattern at a target location.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 above illustrates a projector (#300) including a light source (#302) and a diffractive optical element 306. The projector may correspond to the projector 106 of FIG. 1 or the projector 230 of FIG. 2.
For more details, review Apple's granted patent 10,788,316 that was originally filed for in Q3 2017.
Vehicle Steering System
The second granted patent in this group covers a future vehicle steering system.
Vehicle actuators are controllable systems that cause or affect motion of a vehicle. Examples of vehicle actuators are propulsion actuators, braking actuators, steering actuators, and suspension actuators. Steer-by-wire systems can eliminate or disconnect a physical connection between a steering wheel (also referred to as a hand wheel) and the road wheels.
Apple's invention specifically relates to systems and methods that control feedback supplied to the operator of the vehicle based on operating states at each of the four wheels of the vehicle. As an example, a feedback torque may be determined based on component torques for each of one or more operating conditions at each of the steered wheels.
One aspect of the invention covers a method for controlling a vehicle. The method includes operating a steering system in manual steer-by-wire control state, determining that a transition to an automated steer-by-wire control state is to be performed by the steering system, obtaining manual steering angles and automated steering angles, determining blended steering angles using a blending function during the transition to the automated steer-by-wire control state, and controlling steering actuators using the blended steering angles during the transition to the automated steer-by-wire control state.
A secondary method includes receiving a steering wheel angle value that represents a manual steering input at a steering wheel and a steering wheel torque that represents manually-applied steering torque at the steering wheel, and receiving steering actuator information describing operating conditions for steering actuators.
The method also includes determining component torques for each of the steering actuators using one or more feedback models based on the steering actuator information and the steering wheel angle value, determining a feedback torque based on the component torques and the steering wheel torque, and applying the feedback torque to the steering wheel using a feedback actuator.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 is an illustration showing an example configuration for steering actuator modules of the steering system.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 above is an illustration showing an example configuration for a steering column module of the steering system.
Apple's granted patent 10,787,192 was filed in Q1 2018 with some original work incorporated going back to Q2 2017.
Body Structure Ventilation
In Apple's third Project Titan granted patent Apple notes that vehicle body structures and passenger safety system components such as airbags, inflators, electronics, etc. are spaced from passengers within a passenger compartment and tightly packaged behind trim components. Given the tight packaging, routing ventilation ducts between the body structures and the trim components can be difficult.
Apple's granted patent describes various new methods of disposing ventilation ducts within various vehicle body structures to save packaging space while controlling the position of the ventilation ducts and providing outlets from the ventilation ducts without weakening the vehicle body structures. Thermal treatment is leveraged in examples where a ventilation duct is formed of a different material than the vehicle body structure in which it is disposed.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below shows a portion of a vehicle body that includes a roof panel (#102) that is supported by vehicle body structures including structural rails and structural pillars; FIG. 2A is a partial perspective illustration showing a right-side roof rail of the vehicle body of FIG. 1.
No company on the planet hires a massive team of specialized engineers, spends millions to purchase land to test drive vehicle systems without a pay day in mind.
Naysayers scoffed at the idea of Apple entering the mobile phone market and yet now lead it. They also laughed off Apple entering the tablet market and certainly went berserk when covering smart pen (Apple Pencil) patents. Naysayers now think that Apple is spending billions on a hobby project that's meaningless – Ha!