Apple Files Patent To Help Self-Driving Cars Navigate Icy Roads

  • Nick Jaynes has worked for more than a decade in automotive media industry. In that time, he's done it all—from public relations for Chevrolet to new-car reviews for Mashable. Nick now lives in Portland, Oregon and spends his weekends traversing off-road trails in his 100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

can be reached at nickjaynes@gmail.com
  • Nick Jaynes has worked for more than a decade in automotive media industry. In that time, he's done it all—from public relations for Chevrolet to new-car reviews for Mashable. Nick now lives in Portland, Oregon and spends his weekends traversing off-road trails in his 100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

can be reached at nickjaynes@gmail.com
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Have you ever driven in rainy, snowy, or icy conditions and your car doesn’t turn as much as you want it to, requiring you to change your driving style compared to what you’d do in dry conditions? Well, Apple has a patent to allow self-driving cars to do the same.

According to a report from Apple Insider, the tech giant filed a patent for sensors that read the road beneath the car. To spare you the dreadful technical detail, suffice it to say that the system relies on two sets of sensors. One looks at a swath of the road directly beneath the car. The second also looks down, but at a slight angle toward the front of the vehicle.

With these two perspectives, the system can calculate the speed at which the ground beneath the car is moving, at what angle, as well as longitudinal and lateral velocity and slip.

That means the car can look at its radar, camera images, and GPS data to say, ‘I want to go this way,’ and turn the wheels accordingly. If the car isn’t actually doing that, due to road surface conditions, the new sensors allow it to know more precisely than the other forward-facing sensors might be able to detect.

Apple patent filing image
Apple patent filing image showing the visual sensors which will watch the road to determine if the vehicle is sliding in low-grip conditions

Of course, when you’re driving, you can get a sense for under- and oversteer (when the vehicle turns more or less than what you want) from both your eyes and from the seat of your pants. Since an autonomous car doesn’t have this gut sense, it needs multiple redundant systems to measure it.

For a while it seemed that Apple’s “Project Titan” (the code name for its car team) had abandoned plans for developing an Apple car. Instead, it appeared as though the tech giant was focusing on developing self-driving vehicle systems. That was, until news broke last week that Apple hired Tesla’s VP of engineering. Now it seems more likely Apple is once again investigating building its own car.

No matter what it’s doing, and whether it intends to make its own car or not, Apple is clearly digging into the minutia of driving technology. And this recent patent underscores that.


About the Author

  • Nick Jaynes has worked for more than a decade in automotive media industry. In that time, he's done it all—from public relations for Chevrolet to new-car reviews for Mashable. Nick now lives in Portland, Oregon and spends his weekends traversing off-road trails in his 100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

can be reached at nickjaynes@gmail.com
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