Editor’s note: This article is from Krypton 36 “Future Automotive Daily” (micro-channel public number ID: auto-time), Author: Xiao Cheng Yi.Author | Cheng Xiaoyi
Editing | Xu Yang
Is Apple still insisting on building cars?
Recently, the US Patent and Trademark Office has granted Apple 69 patents, one of which is about the Project Titan’s automotive solar energy.For new energy vehicle owners, charging is a daily problem. In addition to the methods of power exchange and wireless charging, Apple believes that it can also be solved with photovoltaic cells, that is, solar cells.
Apple intends to combine photovoltaic cells with the surface of cars, that is, to “paint” the entire solar cell coating on the entire body, and even cover the coating on automotive glass.It is also possible to use solar panels on seats, instrument panels and other parts inside the vehicle.
Solar Powered Vehicle Description Side View Source: Patently Apple
There are already cars with solar panels on the roof to provide extra power, such as the new Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.However, for cars, the illuminated area is effective, and it is not useful without high conversion rates.In addition, solar panels are mostly made of crystalline silicon, which has high hardness but poor toughness, and is not suitable for body materials.
However, Apple intends to change its characteristics. According to patent documents, Apple plans to develop thin-film solar cells with flexible substrates with a thickness of 1-10 microns. At present, the materials of flexible substrates are considered to be made of soft materials such as fabrics, leather, polymers, etc..Apple believes that other flexible materials such as headphones, shells, covers, interiors, or items with soft surfaces can be used as flexible substrates for thin-film solar energy.
Apple’s Titan plan has become the most mysterious car-building plan.As early as 2014, Apple started to build cars with an asset-heavy model and launched the “Titan Project”. It plans to replicate the success of the iPhone, build a product that subverts the automotive industry from scratch, and frequently seek technical engineers in the electric vehicle field for this purpose..
Apple “Titan Project” Source: Apple
Due to the lack of relevant experience in vehicle manufacturing, the plan was stranded and was reopened only in 2016, and the development route was changed from vehicle manufacturing to autonomous driving technology research.Due to the confidential nature of the project and the news that Titan plans to lay off 190 people early last year, some people believe that Apple’s car plan has been stranded.
But in just one year, Apple’s patents in the automotive field have covered automotive hardware, in-vehicle systems, autonomous driving, and power systems. It can be seen that Apple’s automotive ambitions have not stopped.
Restore the full picture of Apple’s car from the patent
No one has ever experienced Apple’s Dream Car, but from Apple’s 60 or so related patents, it may be conceivable.
With Apple CarKey on your iPhone, you can open the door of your car even when your phone is dead.The smart door hinge allows you to avoid the embarrassment of scratching the car next to you when you drive the door. The biometric technology on the seat belt can identify whether you are drinking or driving at the moment.
Apple’s seat belt patent source: Apple
You don’t want others to see the inside of the car, you can use the window control system. The light modulator layer above can help you protect privacy. Apple’s “AC modulation waveform” can also regulate the lighting conditions inside and outside the car to protect the driver’s vision.The rearview mirror image is projected into the side window glass or head-up display HUD, and an AR map can be obtained through the iPhone or AR glasses.In addition, people who ride a car can also increase ride comfort due to the VR system-the VR experience can make passengers feel that the size of the vehicle is larger than the actual size of the real vehicle, and the virtual view of the real environment can also reduce the passenger’s need for windows.
Virtual ground designed to prevent passenger motion sickness Source: Apple
New energy vehicles do not have to worry about charging during long trips, and the solar car body recharges at any time.Go home and use the autonomous driving navigation system to park your car autonomously. After parking in Apple ’s wireless charging parking lot, the parking space will automatically charge the car.
Although there is no specific product launch for the time being, it can be seen that Apple’s “black technology” innovation in cars is not inferior to Tesla.Not only that, from the perspective of patents, Apple has been iteratively updating its technologies, including autonomous driving, power systems, in-vehicle systems, and body structures.
As far as the power system is concerned, in October 2018, Apple introduced a new battery system to ensure that the air-conditioning, GPS and in-vehicle entertainment systems of electric cars or hybrid cars have sufficient power.According to Apple, vehicles are usually powered by high-voltage batteries, but the equipment inside the vehicle typically runs at lower voltages, so conventional converters can easily cause damage to low-voltage batteries.So Apple introduced a new battery system.
However, this problem has been generally solved after the electric vehicles have gradually spread.In July 2019, Apple announced a patent for wireless charging services for self-driving cars.This technology will realize charging when parking, and wireless power will be transmitted from the wireless charging transmitter located in the parking area to the wireless charging receiver installed in the car, completing the wireless charging process, similar to the wireless charging of mobile phones.In addition, sensors installed on the vehicle will record data such as the arrangement of the charging pile transmitters and charging efficiency, and optimize the subsequent parking orientation.
Apple’s patent for electric vehicle wireless charging patent source: Apple
Although the concept of wireless charging parking is still in the laboratory, Apple has already figured out a solution for those who cannot find a wireless charging parking in the future, and has developed the technology of solar energy for cars, so that the entire car can be passively charged.For active charging, it becomes an energy absorber by itself.
Maybe Apple keeps patenting, but has not yet launched related products. It is just like launching the iPhone at that time, it is a product that is enough to subvert the entire industry.However, the offline requirements of cars and mobile phones are different. There is no real road test repeated many times, and everything is still just a piece of paper.
Can you see Apple’s car in 2023?
“Autonomous driving and self-driving cars won’t happen,” Apple co-founder Woz said at the JD Power car revolution conference in Las Vegas last October that he had believed that Apple could make truly autonomous carsCars and sales.But a few years ago, he gave up the idea.
“There are many technologies that can help us drive cars more safely, but at least the dumbest people need to control the steering wheel.” Although Woz’s statement revealed that Apple’s car route has shifted from self-driving technology research to driving assistance technology research.However, judging from the recent patents, the Apple Titan plan has not abandoned its research on driverless technology, but only added more technologies to enhance the perception of vehicles and drivers.
For example, the new “active suspension” system for autonomous vehicles. This system allows the driver to select the desired vehicle height. The damping characteristics provided by the magnetorheological damper may also be actively changed according to the detected conditions (such as vehicle acceleration)..
Vehicle Functional System Schematic Source: Apple
Apple’s Automated Driving Navigation System (ANS) allows users to preset destinations through Apple Car System CarPlay. After one-click activation, the car will automatically take the user to the destination.There are also road friction coefficient estimation systems that can capture high-precision 4D information, including dual-receiver array radar systems, all of which are self-driving bicycle sensing technologies.
Apple supply chain analyst Guo Mingxuan said in an interview with Che Yun that Apple wants to retake the iPhone’s success, that is, to do a good job of “software”, then to “hardware”, and finally to form “service”, which may be in 2023-Apple cars will be officially launched in 2025.
This speculation is not without foundation.Since early 2015, Apple has been hiring employees in automotive-related fields, such as researchers in battery technology and autonomous driving systems.According to foreign media reports, Apple has at least 20 former BlackBerry employees for in-vehicle software development. In July 2019, it also hired Steve MacManus, a former Tesla executive who specializes in automotive interior and exterior trim.
Although Apple laid off 200 self-driving team employees in early 2019 and transferred many employees to other “critical” projects, internal employees were not surprised by this, according to foreign media reports, and said that this was an expected restructuring of the structure.
The latest news about Apple’s autonomous driving is that in October 2019, according to foreign media DigiTimes, quoting information from sources, Taiwanese manufacturer Quanta Computer is currently providing Apple with an unspecified “autonomous driving solution”. Quanta is still Google CarsOne of the suppliers.
From 2016 to the present, we still can’t guess the final shape of the Apple car. Whether the ultimate product of all black technology is a subversion of the times or a useless technology display is unknown, but Apple Corp.Innovative ideas for the automotive industry are enough to accelerate the intelligent transformation and upgrading of the automotive industry.