Siri to Steer Self-Driving Cars?
Apple’s latest patent filing aims to guide autonomous vehicles
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.
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.
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 mid-size 2005 Pathfinder, Nissan's largest design and development program to date, involved three technical centers, and took 36 months and countless trans-Pacific trips to complete. Though it borrows major components from the full-size Titan pickup and Armada SUV, it's not just a downsized clone.
A young(ish) guy that I’ve known for a number of years, a man who spent the better part of his career writing for auto buff books and who is a car racer on the side, mentioned to me that his wife has a used Lexus ES Hybrid.
The thing about the Wrangler Willys Wheeler: It is a toy for a grown-up boy.