On Tuesday, Apple was Granted a Project Titan Patent covering a Multi-Stage Active Suspension Actuator
Is the glass half-empty or half-full? There were media outlets, like Bloomberg, who made a big deal about the loss of Apple executive Doug Field to Ford. The executive was working on Apple's electric car special project known as Project Titan. Yet Apple scored a major win in February when it was discovered that they snagged Dr. Manfred Harrer from Porsche with a longstanding history of chassis development. Then in June it was made public that Apple had hired Ulrich Kranz, a former senior executive at BMW AG’s electric car division to help lead its own vehicle efforts.
Again in September, Apple hired Dr. Anton Uselmann for Project Titan with over a decade of experience with Mercedes and Porsche in the development of steering systems. With these high-end hires, Project Titan has a much deeper bench than one single engineer returning to Ford. To me, Apple's Project Titan is not in any turmoil, but rather in good hands.
With that said, Apple was granted yet another patent this week for a "Multi-Stage active suspension actuator."
In Apple's patent background they note that conventional vehicle suspension systems are passive systems having a spring and a damper that transfer and damp forces between the sprung mass (e.g., vehicle body) and the unsprung mass (e.g., tires, wheels, brakes, etc.). Handling characteristics of the vehicle and passenger comfort may be improved with an active suspension system that selectively controls force transfer to the vehicle body.
Apple's granted patent covers active suspension systems and suspension actuators. In one implementation, a suspension actuator includes an upper mount, a lower mount, a first actuator, and a second actuator.
The upper mount is connectable to a sprung mass of a vehicle. The lower mount is connectable to an unsprung mass of the vehicle.
The first actuator forms a first load path between the upper mount and the lower mount. The first actuator is one of an electromagnetic linear actuator or a ball screw actuator.
The second actuator forms a second load path in parallel with the first load path between the upper mount and the lower mount. The second actuator is one of a mechanical linear actuator, an air spring actuator, or a hydraulic actuator.
A suspension system for a vehicle includes four suspension actuators and a fluid circuit. Each suspension actuator is configured to selectively apply force between a sprung mass of a vehicle and one of four unsprung masses of the vehicle. Each suspension actuator includes a primary actuator and a hydraulic actuator mechanism.
The primary actuators are for selectively applying force between the sprung mass and one of the unsprung masses.
The hydraulic actuator mechanism is for selectively applying force between the sprung mass and the one of the unsprung masses in parallel with the primary actuator.
The fluid circuit includes a pump in fluidic communication with the hydraulic actuator mechanism of two of the suspension actuators to control displacement thereof.
Apple notes that in patent FIG. 1 below, a vehicle (#100) generally includes a vehicle body (#110), a control system (#120), an energy storage system (#130), a drive system (#140), a steering system (#150), and a suspension system (#160). All of these systems are connected to the vehicle body (#110) to, respectively, propel, steer, and support the vehicle 100 on a road surface.
Apple's patent FIG. 2 below illustrates suspension system #160 is generally configured to maintain contact with the road surface and to control movement of the vehicle body as the vehicle travels over disturbances in the road. The suspension system includes one or more suspension assemblies, for example, one at each corner of the vehicle (e.g., front left, front right, rear right, and rear left) to support the vehicle 100 on the road surface.
Apple's patent FIG. 9 above is a cross-sectional view of another embodiment of a suspension actuator for use in the suspension assembly of FIG. 1. This is the patent FIG. Apple highlighted as a key figure for this invention.
As one could appreciate, this is a very detailed patent filing that those in the electric car industry would better understand than us mere mortals. You could check out the details of granted patent 11,124,035 here.
Jonathan Hall: Electromechanical Technology Leader (SPG). Hall previously worked at Primus Power Corporation and Tesla as Engineer Manager, Powertrain.
Troy Carter: Senior Mechanical Engineer
Paul Keas: Control Systems Engineer