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Apple Aims to Bolster Car Communication

The consumer products giant has filed another patent application toward its goal of wirelessly enhancing vehicle situational awareness.

Apple has applied for a patent (application No. 15/445,839) based on wireless sensors using Bluetooth short-range technology or other protocols. Its purpose is to help cars communicate with each other, as well as to update a drivers’ dashboard display to reflect nearby vehicles like ambulances, fire trucks, or passing cars.

Apple’s patent application was filed February 28 and published on August 17 (publication number US 2017/0236420Al). It is listed as a continuation of application No. 13/605,245, filed on Sept. 6, 2012, and now Apple’s U.S. Pat. No. 9,595,195B2 (entitled “Wireless vehicle system for enhancing situational awareness”).

Patent application 15/445,839

Figure 1 of the patent application is a schematic diagram of illustrative electronic equipment in accordance with embodiment of the Apple invention.

On its recent patent application, Apple lists the following inventors: Devrim Varoglu (Santa Clara, Calif.) and Ravisastry Parupudi (San Mateo, Calif.).

In operation, a receiver in a vehicle that is traveling along  a highway would receive wireless advertisement messages from other vehicles on the highway that are in front of, behind, and to the left and right sides of the vehicle. Received wireless messages would be analyzed to produce a corresponding received signal strength indicator (RSSI) value.

To identify itself and thereby provide surrounding vehicles with the desired amount of situational awareness, each transmitter also would broadcast wireless advertisement messages. These would contain information such as the location of the transmitter within the transmitting vehicle (e.g., left front bumper, etc.).

U.S. Patent application 15/445,839

Figure 2 of the patent application is a diagram showing how multiple pieces of equipment in vehicles traveling on a road may wirelessly interact with each other in accordance with the Apple invention.

According to the patent application, the wireless advertisement messages that are transmitted may also include license plate information, the vehicle identification number, the driver’s name and address, insurance information, and vehicle type (e.g., passenger car, truck, tractor-trailer, motorcycle, emergency vehicle, police car, fire truck, etc.). To ensure privacy, sensitive information could be encrypted and/or partly or fully blocked, redacted, or otherwise made anonymous.

If desired,  satellite navigation system signals such as signals from satellites  may be used in addition  to or instead of locally transmitted and received wireless signals in helping to determine the position and relative movement between vehicles.

U.S. Patent application 15/445,839

Figure 8 of the patent application shows an illustrative display screen in a vehicle that is producing an alert to provide a driver with enhanced situational awareness. It displays the driver's vehicle and nearby vehicles driving on the same road.

In its application, Apple noted that vehicles are sometimes provided with safety equipment such as parking sensors, lane departure warning equipment, and blind spot detection systems. The company pointed out that a parking sensor has limited range and cannot be used to increase safety when a vehicle is being driven on a highway.

Similarly, lane departure warning equipment can sense when a driver has started to drift into an adjacent lane, but does not warn the driver about vehicles in that lane. And blind spot detection systems can use radar or an infrared sensor to monitor a driver’s blind spot, but do not offer complete coverage of areas around the driver’s vehicle; they provide no information to the driver on the nature of intrusions into the driver’s blind spot.

Storage and processing circuitry (shown as #40 in the patent application figure above) may include one or more different types of storage, such as hard disk drive storage, nonvolatile memory (e.g., flash memory or other electrically-programmable-read-only memory), volatile memory (e.g., static or dynamic random-access­ memory), etc. Processing circuitry in storage and processing circuitry (also indicated as #40 in the above schematic) may be used in controlling the operation of equipment. The processing circuitry may be based on a processor such as a microprocessor and other suitable integrated circuits.

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