If Apple Car ever happens it might have hugging, shape-changing seats

Mercedes Designo Interior
Mercedes Designo Interior (Image credit: Mercedes Benz)

What you need to know

  • A new Apple patent outlines car seats that adapt as needed.
  • Inflatable bolsters are mentioned specifically.
  • But will any of this ever be built?

Apple Car is something we've been hearing of for years now, much the same as the fabled Apple television that never came to fruition. Whether Apple Car turns out to be the same deal or not, Apple continues to pick up patents relating to it. US Patent No 10,569,672, "Adaptive tensile surface," talks about seats that can change shape to enable a comfier fit.

The patent was first spotted by Apple Insider and it claims that it could also be applied to office chairs, although car seats appear to be the main target for the technology. Either way, the patent discusses the issues with car seat bolsters – the side parts of the seat that keep you upright and in-place – and the way they wear over time.

Commonly used trim materials include a velour textile, leather, and vinyl. Various contours, indentations, divisions, and seams of the conventional vehicle seat 100 tend to create a lumpy, unattractive surface that is difficult to clean and maintain. Vehicle seats that include such elements deform over time and tend to show wear. In particular, bolsters 118 tend to show wear resulting from passenger ingress and egress.

That's absolutely true, and anyone with an older car will tell you that the seats are the parts that tend to wear worst. Now Apple seems to have plans for seat bolsters that would inflate to allow them to keep their shape and, as a result, keep you snug as a bug in a rug.

In some embodiments, the dynamic bolsters include inflatable chambers 236, which cause changes in the shapes of the dynamic bolsters 235, resulting in a complex curvature for the dynamic seat 206b. The covering 222 covers the dynamic bolsters 235 and is in at least partial contact with the dynamic bolsters 235. In some examples, the inflatable chambers 236 are inflated using ambient air. In some examples, the inflatable chambers 236 are coupled to a reservoir located behind or under the seat 206b.

Some high-end cars already have active bolsters that move to tighten their grip on occupants during hard cornering, and it's possible that Apple's tech could do something similar as well.

But as ever, it's important to remember that Apple patents almost everything its engineers work on. Few of those patents result in products, with Apple Car quite possibly one example of that. Time will tell, but right now it seems that Apple Car driving down a street near you isn't very likely any time soon.

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.