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Apple Patents Advanced External Displays for Autonomous Cars

  • Drive.ai first fitted external displays to its test vehicles back in 2016
  • The challenge with self-driving cars is that it can be difficult for other road users to judge their intentions
  • A new patent for Apple Car external displays shows how the Cupertino company might improve on this tech

Apple has patented a new technology for the external displays of its autonomous vehicles. These external displays are meant to allow road users to judge the intentions of the self-driving car by displaying messages and symbols. This technology was first used by Drive.ai, a self-driving car startup acquired by Apple back in 2019.

Drive.ai first fitted external displays to its test vehicles back in 2016. The goal of these displays is to be able to establish a conversation between the self-driving car and other road users. Drive.ai co-founder and president Carol Reiley explained in a 2016 interview with Wired that “We need to be able to communicate in all directions, and we need to be able to show intention and have a conversation with the other players on the road.”

The new patent from Apple addresses a problem with these external displays. In bright sunlight, these displays can be hard to read because the brightness washes out the content. Apple’s solution is a one-way filter with a microlens array and a mask with a plurality of holes. This will block the majority of sunlight, while still allowing the display light to be visible.

In addition, the patent explains that the displays could use a mix of text and symbols to more closely mimic human interactions. Apple states that the displays could have a mirrored finish in the off state.

It is important to note that Apple patents a great many things, and there is uncertainty as to whether this new technology will make it to market. Regardless, it is likely that if an Apple Car is fitted with exterior displays, they will be integrated with the bodywork in a sleeker way than the existing example.

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