The tech in two iPhone-related patents could be utilized in an Apple Car

Two Apple patents have popped up that could — and let me emphasize COULD — be related to the Project Titan project, which is rumored to involve an Apple car.

Patent number 9,453,734 is for smart loading of map tiles. Systems and methods are provided for displaying a portion of a map on a mobile device of a user while the user is traveling along a route. Of course, this mobile device is probably an iPhone, but the tech could be utilized in an iPad, CarPlay system, or the dashboard of an Apple automobile.

Whatever the device is, according to the granted patent, it can use a selected route and a current location of the device to load map tiles for parts of the map that are upcoming along the route. In this manner, the user can have quick access to the portions of the map that the user likely will want to view. For example, the map tiles can be loaded for the next 50 Km, and then when the stored tiles reaches only 25 Km ahead, another 25 Km of tiles can be retrieved. The amount of tiles loaded (minimum and maximum amounts) can vary based on a variety of factors, such as network state, distance traveled along the route, and whether the mobile device is charging.

In the patent filing, Apple notes that many mobile devices (and it specifically mentions a smartphone) have a map application that allows a user to view different geographical areas for certain purposes, such as to navigate roads in a certain area, to find out traffic conditions on certain roads, or to find locations of certain stores. A user navigates within the map application to see different areas to zoom out or zoom in to see the map at different resolutions. A user may navigate the map in various ways, such as by using a touch screen. Typically, the mobile device doesn’t store the map, but instead requests map tiles from a server. The requested map tiles would correspond to the geographic area that the user has selected. 

When a user is traveling to a particular destination, he or she may often want to use the map feature. For instance, the user may use the map to determine where to turn next to get to the destination. The might also want to find out information about an exit, e.g., if there is a gas station there or type of restaurants. Or, a user may become lost, and need to use the map to correct course to the destination. However, to do so, the user currently navigates the map application to the desired geographic area to retrieve the desired map tiles from the server. 

Apple says that obtaining map tiles in such a way “can encounter delay, connectivity problems, and run down battery life.” The company wants to change this. 

Patent number 9,456,307 is for an “electronic device with mapping circuitry.” It likely involves using Apple smartphones and tablets for indoor mapping efforts, such as generating virtual models of a room. However, it could also be utilized in a vehicle’s computer vision system.

Whatever the final application, laser distance measuring devices include a laser and a sensor. Conventional laser measuring devices measure only the distance from the device to a given surface. These devices are unable to measure distances between multiple points that are separate from the device and therefore require the user to place the device is specific locations for which measurements are desired. 

Apple says that this can be difficult in, for example, a furnished room with items that restrict access to all parts of the room. Additionally, these devices can be bulky pieces of equipment that require batteries or battery packs and must be purchased and transported separately from other equipment and electronic devices. Apple says it would be “desirable to be able to provide improved electronic devices with mapping circuitry.”

Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.