Let the Apple Car rumors roll on. Apple has been granted a patent (number 10,204,517) for a “wireless vehicle system for enhancing situational awareness.” The goal is to make cars safer.
In the patent info, Apple notes that vehicles are sometimes provided with safety equipment such as parking sensors, lane departure warning equipment, and blind-spot detection systems. A parking sensor can be used to alert a driver when a vehicle is nearly in contact with a parked car or other stationary object, but has limited range and cannot be used to increase safety when a vehicle is being driven on a highway.
Lane departure warning equipment can sense when a driver has started to drift into an adjacent lane, but does not warn the driver about vehicles in the adjacent lane. Blind spot detection systems can use radar or an infrared sensor to monitor a driver's blind spot, but do not offer complete coverage of areas around the driver's vehicle and provide no information to the driver on the nature of intrusions into the driver's blind spot. Apple wants to provide improved systems for providing drivers in-vehicles with enhanced situational awareness when driving on a road.
Here’s the summary of the patent: “Electronic equipment in vehicles may transmit and receive wireless messages. Each wireless message that is transmitted by a transmitter may include information on the vehicle from which it is being transmitted, information on the location of the transmitter within the vehicle, and other vehicle status information. Receiving equipment in vehicles may be used to receive the transmitted messages.
“Received signal strength indicator information may be associated with the transmitted messages. Using the received signal strength indicator information and information on the locations of the transmitters within the vehicles in which the transmitters are installed, equipment in a receiving vehicle may determine locations for nearby vehicles. Alerts may be presented to a driver of a vehicle and other suitable actions may be taken based on the locations of nearby vehicles, vehicle type information, and other information regarding traffic in the vicinity of the driver.”
I still don’t think Apple plans to make an “Apple Car,” but will instead use the technologies it's developing to work with other companies to “Apple-ize” their vehicles. That said, making a full-fledged self-driving car is probably very tempting for the tech giant.
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.