New patent filings suggest Apple is developing adjustable tinted window technology.
Apple has been keeping tight-lipped about its autonomous car project. At one point, it looked like the iPhone maker would switch to developing autonomous car software until the company signed a deal with Volkswagen to develop self-driving vans. However, new patents filed by Apple to the US Patent and Trademark Office suggests the company is still hard at work developing technology for its future autonomous car, including an intelligent automatic window tinting system.
This technology could offer a number of benefits, from blocking unwanted sunlight and increasing the level of privacy for passengers, to preventing opportunistic thieves from looking inside the cabin for valuables. While window tinting available on cars such as the Tesla Model S is fixed, Apple's will have fully adjustable visibility.
One patent for "devices with guest-host liquid crystal modulators" implies the windows will have multiple layers to block out different types of light, allowing for different intensity levels that adjust to the conditions accordingly. Multiple sensors on the car would send data to a computer that analyzes the conditions and automatically alters the tinting level. For example, if the sensors detect that driver visibility is poor, it could automatically reduce the tint. Likewise, if the interior is too bright or too hot, it will increase the tinting to make the cabin more comfortable.
By utilizing GPS coordinates, the system could also detect if the car is being driven in a city or on a highway and adjust the tinting accordingly. Determining the number of occupants inside the car could also affect the level of tinting and set it to maximum when parked.
Apple has filed a second patent for a "system and method for dynamic privacy and window tinting" that will allow users to control the level of window tinting. Apple believes this technology is necessary because conventional tinting does not "adequately protect and shield occupants from sunlight and other forms of light" from outside a car and fails to provide "adequate privacy." Ultimately, the technology in the patents may not get developed, but at least it shows that Apple is still researching automotive technology. Even if the Apple Car doesn't happen, the technology could still potentially be licensed to other manufacturers.