This will certainly add fuel to the rumor that Apple will build its own automobile (an Apple Car): the tech giant has filed for an assembly for an “energy absorbing assembly” for a vehicle.
In the patent filing, Apple notes that, during an impact of an automobile with respect to another vehicle or a fixed object, the body structure of the vehicle may be subjected to extreme forces that can cause deformation of the body structure. Certain portions of the body structure may be reinforced to resist deformation. This may be the case, for example, for portions of the vehicle's body structure that surround the passenger compartment of the vehicle.
By reinforcing structures surrounding the passenger compartment, intrusion of body structures into the passenger compartment can be reduced. Other portions of a vehicle's body structure may be designed such that they are able to deform in a controlled manner. When these portions of the vehicle's body structure deform, part of the energy of the impact is absorbed by the deformation.
Many vehicle designs include a front beam structure designed to absorb energy from impacts involving the front end of the vehicle. The front beam structure is positioned forward of the passenger compartment, and typically includes one or more beams that extend in a longitudinal direction of the vehicle. Each of these beams is configured so that it deforms and shortens during an impact, such as by crushing. The amount of deformation (e.g. longitudinal shortening) that these beams experience during an impact is directly related to the amount of energy that the beams absorb. Thus, a longer beam is typically able to absorb more energy during an impact.
Apple thinks the solution is “ab energy absorbing assembly includes a beam that extends in a first direction, a structural member that extends in a second direction transverse to the beam, a load transfer structure that restrains motion of the beam relative to the structural member by transferring lateral loads between the beam and the structural member, and a recess defined in the structural member.” The beam is configured to shorten during an impact to define a failed portion of the beam, and the beam is connected to the structural member such that the failed portion of the beam is at least partially receivable in the recess.”
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.