Apple may have been quiet about its self-driving car program but it is ramping up patent efforts. The iPhone maker envisions a future for self-driving cars where voice, gesture and touch-enabled commands are integrated together. The idea could be interpreted from a patent application filed last August by Apple. The patent published last week imagines a future self-driving car that puts interaction at the center. It details the use of voice and gesture guidance system paired with touch-enabled commands.
Apple CEO Tim Cook had announced back in 2017 that the company was working on an autonomous car system. Back then, it seemed like Apple was moving away from building its own car. Apple has never been a software vendor and has built both hardware and software. With self-driving cars, the company might partner with an automaker and offer only its solution. The patent throws a light on how such a system would work on a self-driving car. The patent application describes three ways passengers will be able to interact with the autonomous car.
Apple details its plans for autonomous cars
This includes touch, gestures and voice. All of these serve as the primary way to give the autonomous car directions and input. It also projects Apple’s way of simplifying the whole user experience. Most of the input mechanism seems familiar to what Apple offers on its existing devices. There is a voice command and the application notes that an authorized user would simply say, “I’d like some coffee.” The autonomous car will then drive the passenger to the nearest cafe. For more specific, the application shows a command like “Let’s go to my favorite coffee shop on Main Street.”
The application further explains that different voice commands can create different trips. However, the user will be in ultimate control of how much freedom they plan to give to the autonomous car. The second method is gesture controls which also involves the smartphone. In this case, you would say something like “Park over there” and motion the smartphone toward a spot. The onboard computer of the car would analyze the spot and then direct the car in that direction.
This definitely sounds like a lot of processing and machine learning involved to reach accurate output. Inside the car, there will be a huge touchscreen that might have an iOS style interface. The patent application describes a basic touch interface with predictive features to inform the vehicle about its direction. On the screen, the passenger will be able to input where they want to go. The screen will have a second area where they can mention where to park. It will also be able to show places nearby and history-dependent selections, probably using Apple Maps.
The iPhone maker also mentions a digital joystick to move the car manually and guide it toward a parking spot. This could be a fail safe experience when the automated feature stops working. The patent application does not conclude that this will be the path forward for Apple’s autonomous driving experience. The patent comes with usual disclaimer and should not be concluded as concrete evidence. However, a lot of the elements mentioned here do seem to offer a look at Apple’s plan for self-driving vehicles.