Let the Apple Car rumors continue to roll. Apple has filed for a patent (number 20190095721) for “nighttime sensing” that would improve night vision in an automated automobile.
In the patent filing, the tech giant notes that nighttime or low-light environments present challenges for automated vehicle control systems. For example, the illumination level provided by headlights on a vehicle at night may be limited by laws or regulations, which may in turn limit the effective range of a visible spectrum sensor (e.g., a camera) used for detecting objects in or near the path of the vehicle.
Having a limited effective range (e.g., about 60 meters) for detecting and or classifying objects can reduce safety and/or reduce the speed at which the vehicle can travel safely. Apple’s idea is to change this via a combination of multiple complimentary image sensing technologies employed to address the challenges of nighttime or low-light environment object detection and classification.
Here’s the summary of the invention: “Systems and methods for night vision combining sensor image types. Some implementations may include obtaining a long wave infrared image from a long wave infrared sensor; detecting an object in the long wave infrared image; identifying a region of interest associated with the object; adjusting a control parameter of a near infrared sensor based on data associated with the region of interest; obtaining a near infrared image captured using the adjusted control parameter of the near infrared sensor; and determining a classification of the object based on data of the near infrared image associated with the region of interest.”
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.