Siri to Steer Self-Driving Cars?

Apple’s latest patent filing aims to guide autonomous vehicles


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Siri, Apple’s omnipresent digital assistant, now does more than ever—even before you ask—the company boasts.

This includes making proactive suggestions to text or call the appropriate people if you’re running late for a meeting. The cloud-based technology also can recognize individual voices, interact with other smart devices and anticipate your needs based on past behavior or upcoming schedules.

Motorists already can access Siri and other iPhone features through their vehicle via Apple’s CarPlay interface. But a new patent filing details a much more ambitious plan.

At Your Command

The patent, “Guidance of Autonomous Vehicles in Destination Vicinities Using Intent Signals,” was filed in August but was just made public.

It describes a system that would allow passengers to direct a vehicle via a combination of voice commands, touchscreen controls, gestures, gazes or even shifting the angle that a smartphone is being held. The technology would interpret these inputs, then put the vehicle en route to an appropriate destination—even if one isn’t explicitly identified.

For example, if a type of food is mentioned—such as “I’m in the mood for Italian”—the system would suggest a few nearby eateries. An artificial intelligence algorithm could rank options by a combination of proximity, prices, customer reviews and user histories.

Once a destination is agreed upon, the quickest route would be chosen to take you there.

Park Smart

For locations with multiple entrances, Apple says the system could select a parking spot closest to the door most likely to be used—near gardening supplies if the intent is to buy a shrub.

If a passenger sees a good parking spot, all they would have to do is point their phone at it. The Apple system would confirm availability, then the vehicle would park itself.

Selfie Status

Apple has been testing autonomous vehicle technologies in California for several years. But the company has scaled back its secretive Project Titan program, which had been rumored to be developing an entire car.

For now, the tech giant’s automotive focus seems to be on developing various enabling technologies. In addition to the latest filing, Apple has applied for patents for steer-by-wire systems, augmented reality devices and blind spot sensors.

The company also acquired Drive.ai, a Silicon Valley-based developer of AI-based software.


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