Let the Apple Car rumors roll on. Apple has been granted a patent (number 10,336,290) for “extendable bumpers for vehicles.”
In the patent filing, Apple notes that vehicle bumpers often protrude longitudinally forward with respect to other vehicle structures such as body panels, or longitudinally rearward of other vehicle structures. In the event of a collision at the front or rear of a vehicle, the bumper is often the first part of the vehicle that’s struck.
A number of vehicle bumper structures have been utilized. A simple design includes a laterally extending metal beam that is supported forward of other vehicle structures by two or more support structures.
Many modern designs include a plastic bumper cover that conceals an underlying bumper structure that is designed to absorb impact by crushing, such as a cellular structure formed from plastic. All these implementations aren’t bad, but Apple thinks it can do better.
Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “A vehicle includes a body portion, an opening defined by the body portion, and an extendable bumper that is positioned in the opening and is moveable with respect to the body portions between an extended position and a retracted position. The extendable bumper includes an inflatable structure that causes movement of the extendable bumper between the retracted position and the extended position in response to inflation and deflation of the inflatable structure.
Of course, 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.