Apple’s self-driving system atop a Lexus RX - Image via MacCallister Higgins
In an effort to avoid confusion on future roadways, Apple's self-driving car could notify drivers and pedestrians of its next desired action. The Cupertino, California-based technology company was granted a patent for a "system and method for visual communication of an operational status" with the United States Patent and Trade Office.
First discovered by Apple Insider, the Tuesday report details how the system aims to represent a self-driving car's actions to other drivers and pedestrians. In the patent, Apple noted drivers often pick up on and look for other signals aside from standard turn indicators. For example, a driver may check his or her blind spots multiple times, which can indicate a lane change to other motorists before a turn signal. To mirror such cues, Apple's self-driving car could display its actions for others to anticipate.
The technology would calculate the route beforehand and display an indicator for the rider and other drivers to show its next move. The patent details the indicator would be displayed on the exterior of the car for others to see. Apple could also include a timer for others to know when the self-driving car expects to perform a various maneuver. Additionally, the self-driving-car technology could also use a projection system to indicate the lane it intends to change over to and highlight a parking space it wants to occupy or display warnings for other drivers of obstructions.
Apple has notoriously held its self-driving car technology close to its chest, but last July, details of a rebooted "Project Titan" claimed the company has been working on a "proprietary chip" to control self-driving car systems. The details leaked as Apple sued a former employee for allegedly stealing plans for a circuit board and chip, and then fleeing to work for a Chinese start-up company. The company also hired on an ex-Waymo senior engineer, fueling speculation over Apple's intentions to play in the automotive space.