In the event of an emergency, a new Apple patent details a system that could override a self-driving car's system and hand over controls to a remote operator.
Apple Insider reported on the patent Tuesday, the day it was published, though the technology company filed the patent in 2016 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The idea is to speed up travel time to get a passenger to, say, the hospital as quickly as possible. The patent for Apple's "Authorized Remote Control" describes two ways to accomplish this. In a medical emergency, a dashboard button could request the remote driver take over controls. Or, using sensors, the self-driving car could understand there's an emergency at hand and automatically request a remote driver.
Apple CEO Tim Cook
The system would need to authenticate the request to keep from any unwanted party taking over vehicle controls. The remote driver, which could be a central computer system or a person, could then guide the self-driving car to quicker routes and speed up the vehicle. Anyone who's tried to navigate a hospital campus knows it can be tedious—a remote driver could bend the laws and find the quickest way to get a passenger to the emergency room.
Once the self-driving car arrives at the destination, the remote driver would give controls back to the self-driving system.
Apple CEO Tim Cook at WWDC
During the trip, the remote driver could monitor the passenger via internal sensors and potentially change course based on the situation as it unfolds. Should this patent prove out, it could lead to some sort of new job position for medical professionals who could give medical advice to passengers during the journey.
Apple and other companies file thousands of patents per year. However, Apple has consistently filed patents for self-driving-car technology and for electric-car batteries. It's rumored all of this is part of a reborn Project Titan self-driving-car program inside the technology company.