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Apple Car could get infrared headlights for ultimate night time safety

Bmw Adaptive Headlights
Bmw Adaptive Headlights (Image credit: BMW Group)

What you need to know

  • Apple has a new patent for infrared car headlights.
  • Infrared lights could give cars three times the visibility of a human driver.

Apple Car could offer me infrared headlights if a new patent is any indication. The patent, newly granted to Apple, describes new headlights that could allow a self-driving car to see up to three times farther than a traditional car with a human driver behind the wheel.

Spotted by Patently Apple, the new patent would increase the standard 180ft viewing distance of existing headlights to as much as 600ft. All thanks to the use of a near-infrared sensor.

Having a limited effective range (e.g., about 60 meters = 180 feet) for detecting and or classifying objects can reduce safety and/or reduce the speed at which the vehicle can travel safely.[...]A near infrared sensor with a near infrared illuminator can be configured to capture high resolution image information about objects in or near a path of the vehicle out to a significantly longer range (e.g., 200 meters = 600 feet) from the vehicle.

The law currently prevents headlights from being too powerful to protect the safety of oncoming traffic. But that only applies to visible light, a limitation that wouldn't apply to an infrared solution.

A combination of multiple complimentary image sensing technologies may be employed to address the challenges of nighttime or low-light environment object detection and classification. For example, there may be looser or no restrictions on the illumination level of a near infrared illuminator mounted on a vehicle. A near infrared sensor with a near infrared illuminator can be configured to capture high resolution image information about objects in or near a path of the vehicle out to a significantly longer range (e.g., 200 meters) from the vehicle. This may enable earlier detection and classification of objects as the vehicle moves and improve safety and/or maximum speed. Near infrared illuminators may project near infrared light in a relatively narrow field of view (e.g., a 30-degree cone).

As ever though, it's important to remember that Apple patents a lot of things and many of those patents disappear into the wind. Others do result in products however and anything is possible as far as Apple Car and Project Titan are concerned.

We're still a number of years away from Apple Car shipping, if it ever does. Until then we can get the closest thing to a real Apple Car by picking up a CarPlay-enabled audio receiver for our existing cars instead!

Oliver Haslam
Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

1 Comment
  • But this plays heck with dash cameras. If you don't get this, take one of your IR TV remotes and point it at your cell phone camera and push a button.