The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 78 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover a granted patent relating to Project Titan, and specifically for an extendable bumper system for vehicles.
Functions performed by bumpers include reducing the extent of pedestrian injuries by providing a soft initial contact, absorbing impact to prevent damage to other portions of the vehicle during a low-speed collision, and reducing the extent of height mismatch between vehicles of different sizes.
Apple notes that moving a bumper from a retracted position to an extended position changes the location of initial contact during a collision relative to other parts of the vehicle, such as external body panels and internal structure members.
By allowing movement to the retracted position, the bumpers of the vehicle need not be positioned at all times at locations selected based on criteria such as collision performance. For example, the bumpers can be disposed in retracted positions when the vehicle is parked to reduce the overall length of the vehicle.
Apple's patent FIG. 7 below illustrates a vehicle (#400), that includes a vehicle structure (#402), a body portion (#404), and an extendable bumper system (# 406) disposed in an extended position.
The inflatable structure (#410) is an elongated member that extends across the majority of the transverse dimension of the vehicle. The inflatable structure defines a sealed interior that allows it to hold pressurized gas. The inflatable structure is formed from a material that is flexible and may be elastic or inelastic. Inflation of the inflatable structure moves the position of the front of the inflatable structure by a distance of approximately 20 mm-160 mm.
Apple's patent FIG. 8 shows impact of an object (#440) with the extendable bumper system. Because of the different inflation pressures in the internal chambers (#434, #436 and #438), they deform differently in response to the impact.
In particular, the first internal chamber (#434) deforms to a greatest extent because it is inflated to the lowest pressure, the second internal chamber (#436) deforms less than the first internal chamber and the third internal chamber (#438) deforms less than the second internal chamber. The differences in deformation induce a slight rotation of the top of the object (#440) toward the vehicle (#400).
Apple's patent FIGS. 28-29 above show a portion of a vehicle (#1500) having a vehicle structure (#1502) and an extendable bumper system (#1506). The extendable bumper system includes a flexible fascia (#1567) and a cam assembly (#1568) which rotates under the influence of an included actuator such as an electric motor controlled by an electronic control unit.
When rotated, the cam assembly engages the interior of the flexible fascia which flexes the flexible fascia outward from its nominal position to cause motion of the extendable bumper system between a retracted position (FIG. 28) and an extended position (FIG. 29).
Apple's granted patent 10,974,688 was originally filed in Q3 2019 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
In related news today, The Korea Times is reporting that LG and Magna are close to signing a deal with Apple for manufacturing an electric vehicle. Late last month, Patently Apple posted a report titled "Magna's CEO made a simple comment about willing to work with Apple on an Electric Car and the stock market reacted immediately." The stock market and media in general are very interested in a possible Apple branded vehicle. Whether today's rumor has any validity is unknown at this time.