We continue with the flow of patents for Apple Car which, slowly, but gradually, gives us information on the technologies that Apple is exploring for its future autonomous car. In this case we are talking about the car’s ability to “see” in the dark up to three times farther away than a human driver.
Night vision 200 meters in front of the vehicle
The patent, entitled “Nighttime sensing”, which we can translate as “night sensor”, speaks of the use of a system that combines visible light, short infrared and long wave infrared to be able to see up to three times farther than technology currently allows.
Apple starts by saying that Autonomous cars currently have the same vision limitations as humans when driving at night.. This is a distance of about 60 meters, which is the lighting area that the vehicle reaches.
Low light or nighttime environments present challenges for automated vehicle control systems. For example, the level of illumination provided by a vehicle’s headlights at night may be limited by laws or regulations, which in turn may limit the effective range of a visible spectrum sensor (for example, a camera ) used to detect objects in or near the path of the vehicle. Having a limited effective range (eg, approximately 60 meters) to detect and / or classify objects can reduce safety and / or reduce the speed at which the vehicle can move safely.
A combination of three types of lighting to anticipate any obstacle or unforeseen on the road.
By law, the illumination power of headlights is regulated to avoid dazzling other drivers. However, this limitation only applies to visible light, so infrared lighting can be much more powerful. With the necessary sensors, the car could detect irregularities in the road much earlier than current cars and much more than a human driver can.
[…] there may be more lax or no restrictions on the lighting level of a vehicle mounted in the near infrared illuminator. A near infrared sensor with a near infrared illuminator can be configured to capture high resolution image information on objects on or near the vehicle path up to a significantly greater distance (eg, 200 meters) from the vehicle. This can allow earlier detection and classification of objects as the vehicle moves and improve safety and / or top speed. Near infrared illuminators can project near infrared light in a relatively narrow field of view (eg, a 30 degree cone).
The patent goes on to describe how near infrared light gives the greatest vision, while longwave light gives the greatest field of view. Between the two, a most useful combination is obtained in most of the cases.
While we don’t know what Apple’s plans for the Apple car are, the truth is that the investment they are making in developing autonomous driving technologies is more than considerable. We will see in what type of product all this technology materializes.