Apple Car could have light-up seats and doors for button labelling and more

Project Titan illumination drawing
Project Titan illumination drawing (Image credit: Apple Insider)

What you need to know

  • Rumors of an Apple Car won't go away and a new patent isn't helping.
  • The patent is for a new lighting system that could illuminate doors and seats.
  • Those lights could appear as button labels or instructions.

Most modern cars come with some sort of interior lighting setup these days, and it all looks rather lovely. But Apple has been granted a new patent that would take things to a whole new level. According to Apple Insider the patent could lead to car doors and seats that can be illuminated to act as button labels or instructions.

The patent was granted today and is titled "Lighting systems of vehicle seats," which seems pretty self explanatory. But how it all works? Not so much.

According to the report it's possible Apple could use LEDs or OLEDs to light fibers within a structure, such as a seat or door panel. Special lighting ducts could be used to transport the light where it needs to be, with the light source hidden away.

The LEDs and OLEDs can be used to light up fibers and other light guides throughout the vehicle, or for larger areas the LEDs can be formed from "thin-film circuitry on a substrate." Either the LEDs will be made directly visible, as currently used, or will be hidden with light channels and fibers used to transport light to where illumination is required.

Ultimately this could lead to a label-free car interior, with buttons only being illuminated once a finger or hand is detected nearby. Similar to how an iPhone doesn't light its display when it's near an ear, but in reverse.

When used in concert with embedded sensors, such as capacitive touch sensors, this could allow for a semi-hidden indicator to be turned on and off near a button as confirmation of a setting, or to provide more details about using the controls, like a sliding rectangle to show where the user can slide their finger to change a seat configuration.

Just like all Apple patents it's important to remember that none of this guarentees that we will see such things ship. And when Apple Car and Project Titan are involved things become even more unlikely. We've heard such conflicting reports about Apple's work on an autonomous vehicle and associated systems that this might be one product that I won't believe until I see it on-stage one day.

Or just as likely, not at all.

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.