Apple Submits VR Patents for Next-Gen Autonomous Vehicles

According to Patently Apple, “There have been a series of very smart and very cool patent applications surfacing of late covering a future mixed reality headset that could one day be a part of a virtual desktop system designed to edit 3D documents” and a “detailed invention covering an advanced gesturing control system for a heads-up-display system of an autonomous vehicle.” For the latter, the official patent application by Apple reads that the invention could lead to “safe, smaller, and less expensive autonomous vehicles.”

In what Patently Apple calls the “invention of the decade,” Apple’s patent application notes that “embodiments of the VR system as described herein may be implemented in autonomous or ‘self-driving’ vehicles where all occupants are passengers.”


According to Patently Apple’s analysis of the patents, there are many possible applications of these inventions. One example remarks on how dangerous the windows in vehicles are, noting that “by providing a virtual view of the real environment or of a simulated environment, the VR system may reduce or eliminate the need for windows in autonomous vehicles, allowing the vehicles to be engineered with fewer and/or smaller windows, or with no windows at all.”

Another patent adds augmented reality; it says that “the virtual content is displayed in a view of a real-world scene in front of the vehicle to provide an augmented or mixed reality view to the passenger to include virtual objects and virtual tags. Accelerations and motions in a virtual experience can be matched to or enhanced by accelerations and motions of the vehicle,” details Patently Apple.

The patents also address things like VR integration with physical effects while the car is in motion, like “rushing wind or heat through the HVAC system, surround sound and sound effects through the audio system, and acceleration or motion effects through the seat,” and addresses productivity while along for the ride: “…two or more people may hold a meeting as avatars around a table in a virtual environment, for example in a virtual room … or on the bed of a flatbed truck.”

Additionally, some ideas provide educational experiences for passengers as they pass by landmarks or turning the back of a truck into a virtual stage for a favorite band (connected via the car’s audio system).

According to The New York Times, automakers are already thinking in terms of VR, offering various experiences in showrooms and at car shows like this week’s New York International Auto Show.

“At shows filled with outrageous concept cars and shiny models making their debuts, it takes more than a pretty car to stand out. Visitors might learn about an automaker’s plans for urban mobility while flying above a make-believe landscape, take a virtual reality sprint around a test track or scream down a drag strip at the wheel of a production-model hot rod,” notes NYT.

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