On November 18 Patently Apple posted a report titled "Apple appears to be accelerating Project Titan and reportedly Aiming to develop a high-end autonomous vehicle." In order to do that, Apple will be relying on advanced Lidar (an acronym for: Light Detection and Ranging). Yesterday the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple titled "Enabling Lidar Detection."
Below is a general video about how Lidar works for Google's Waymo that uses "LiDAR" which sends out millions of laser beams per second to build a detailed picture of the world all 360 degrees around it. Their vehicles also use radar to detect how far away object are and their speed. Radar is also described in Apple's latest patent. The video is to assist those unfamiliar with Lidar to understand what Apple's patent is about in respect to their autonomous vehicle project known as Project Titan.
Apple Patent: Enabling Lidar Detection
Apple notes that roads or road signs include reflective materials, such as reflective paint or attachments, to improve their optical visibility by reflecting light. Lane markers generally include a reflective paint in addition to physical bumps to ensure that drivers can be made aware of the lane's outer bounds even in low-light situations. License plates on vehicles also include reflective materials to better illuminate the text on the license plate to be visible to other drivers, including police officers.
Autonomous vehicles include numerous sensors configured to detect obstacles that may appear while driving. These obstacles may include other vehicles driving along the same road. Vehicles on the road may be detected by the sensors, such as a light detection and ranging (lidar) sensor or a radar sensor. The sensors may generally be able to detect a vehicle by determining that a lidar signal or a radar signal has been reflected by the vehicle. The sensors may not necessarily be able to determine that the obstacle is a vehicle by simply having reflected signals. Detectability of other vehicles on the road can be improved by making the sensors more effective by improving usability of signals detectable by the sensors.
Apple's patent filing covers systems and methods for enabling lidar detection on a vehicle. In some embodiments, a vehicle may include a light source configured to emit a light signal, a receiver sensor configured to receive a reflected light signal based at least in part on the light signal reflected from a plurality of reflectors and a controller. The controller may be configured to identify an arrangement pattern of the plurality of reflectors based at least in part on the reflected light signal and determine that plurality of reflectors are coupled to another vehicle based at least in part on an identification of the arrangement pattern.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below illustrates a block diagram of a vehicle having one or more sensors configured to detect another vehicle; FIG. 2a illustrates a side view of a sensor configured to send a signal to a plurality of reflectors embedded in a vehicle; FIGS. 3A and 3B illustrate block diagrams of a vehicle having multiple patterns of pluralities of reflectors identifying multiple orientations of the vehicle.
Apple's detailed patent application 20210373160 is a "divisional" patent of two prior patents. What is a divisional patent? While a divisional application is filed later than the parent application, it may retain its parent's filing date, and will generally claim the same priority. Divisional applications are generally used in cases where the parent application may lack unity of invention; that is, the parent application describes more than one invention and the applicant is required to split the parent into one or more divisional applications each claiming only a single invention. The ability to file divisional applications in cases of lack of unity of invention is required by Article 4G of the Paris Convention.
Apple's Micah P. Kalscheur is the sole inventor on this patent and is an Electro-Optical Engineer. I was unable to find a LinkedIn profile of Mr. Kalscheur, but he has been listed on a number of Apple patents. Below are just a few of them:
Granted patent #10990805: Hybrid mode illumination for facial recognition authentication
Granted patent 10788316: multi-sensor real-time alignment and calibration
Granted patent 10712446: Remote sensing for detection and ranging of objects
Granted patent 10107914: Actuated optical element for light beam scanning device
Granted patent 10719692: Vein matching for difficult biometric authentication cases