A recent patent filing indicates Apple may be looking to expand beyond CarPlay with an augmented reality system that projects information onto car windshields.
First spotted by The Drive, the patent application in question was filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on April 28 and published on Aug. 24. It describes using sensors such as visible-light cameras, infrared cameras, radar, and ultrasonic or lidar units, to build a three-dimensional picture of the environment around the vehicle. Geographical positioning data could be incorporated as well, the application says.
Using this data, the system would then overlay information in such a way that it would appear to be populating the environment itself in true augmented reality style, rather than appearing as flat displays on the windshield. In the application, Apple suggests some possible uses, like highlighting signs with relevant information, or outlining a destination that may be obscured by buildings.
Apple also suggests using the system to cajole drivers into being more cautious. The application suggests that virtual speed bumps could be projected onto the road if the driver is going too fast, encouraging them to slow down. It could even work with adaptive suspension to simulate the feeling of passing over speed bumps, Apple suggests. Or it could project images of “human child individuals” to encourage drivers to slow down for school zones.
While Apple seems to have some use cases thought out, the patent application doesn’t offer much detail on the hardware that would make this possible. Current augmented reality systems, such as the one in some recent Mercedes-Benz vehicles that can project arrows onto a view of the road ahead as part of the navigation system, rely on head-up displays. But filling the entire windshield with three-dimensional imagery is another matter.
Apple isn’t the only company thinking of turning windshields into display screens. Augmented reality tech was featured on two concept cars—the Mercedes-Benz Concept CLA-Class and Volkswagen ID.GTI—that debuted at the recent 2023 Munich auto show.
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