Apple Reveals an Optical Wireless Communication System that Addresses the needs for a World of Autonomous Vehicles

  Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to vehicle navigation. More specifically, some aspects relate to vehicle data communication during vehicle navigation. The need for a communications system to power a world of autonomous vehicles at super high speeds is great. […]

 

Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to vehicle navigation. More specifically, some aspects relate to vehicle data communication during vehicle navigation. The need for a communications system to power a world of autonomous vehicles at super high speeds is great. Apple’s patent attempts to address the issues and needs of real-time communications and the reinvention of the U.S. roadway system to make it happen.

 

Apple notes that modern vehicles may upload or download significant amounts of data. For example, autonomous vehicles may upload data continually to the cloud (e.g., a data center, a cloud computing environment, and other cloud-based data environments), data that may be used for tuning autonomous driving algorithms based on individual data or based on test vehicle fleets.

 

Vehicles may also continually download data, such as real-time surrounding car data, map downloads, media downloads, or other data. Although some wireless communication (e.g., 5G) channels may provide high data bandwidth, these communication channels often require expensive vehicle data plans.

 

Other wireless communication protocols, such as Wi-Fi and WiGig technologies, provide data communication but with significant bandwidth constraints for large amounts of data. The performance of each of these communication protocols may be reduced further, such as due to non-line of sight communications and outdoor environment challenges. What is needed is an improved solution for transmission of vehicular data.

 

Apple’s patent application presents various technical solutions for the technical problems facing autonomous vehicles (e.g., fully autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles). To address technical problems facing wireless communication cost and latency, a heterogeneous roadside infrastructure can be used to improve the ability for a vehicle to communicate with a data source.

 

To address technical problems facing interruption of vehicle services due to an abrupt loss of connection, a quality of service system provides the ability to determine and share quality of service information, such as location-based information, maps, interference data, and other quality of service information.

 

To address technical problems facing high volume data upload and download between autonomous vehicles and cloud-based data services, optical wireless communication (OWC) provides increased data throughput and reduced complexity, and may be beneficial for short-range high-mobility wireless communications.

 

Apple’s patent FIG. 1 below is a diagram depicting an exemplary heterogeneous infrastructure. To support the increasing number of autonomous vehicles, there is a need to provide improved services to the vehicles. These services may rely on communication between the vehicle and a data source, such as the cloud.

 

These services may include real-time services, such as smart parking, providing over-the-air (OTA) updates for vehicle software, firmware, and security patches, providing traffic and weather alerts in real-time that are specific to the vehicle location, providing entertainment and office services for passengers, downloading and updating of high definition (HD) maps (e.g., high level of three-dimensional navigation detail) during a drive, and other services.

 

The continuous dependency of these services on the cloud (including, e.g., wide-area networks (WANs), the Internet, and other cloud-based data connections) increases network cost for carriers.

 

Further, the current wireless carriers may not have sufficient bandwidth for real-time services, where even 5G access often includes several sequential communication paths (e.g., communication hops) between the vehicle and the cloud, where each communication path adds to latency.

 

To provide improved vehicle services, the heterogeneous infrastructure (#100) improves the ability for a vehicle to communicate with a data source.

 

2 Project Titan figs

 

Apple’s patent FIG. 8 above is a diagram depicting an Optical Wireless Communication (OWC) deployment.

 

In various aspects, these OWC solutions can be leveraged when the vehicle is proximate to roadside units equipped with OWC in city roads or highways. These solutions may be deployed in the transportation infrastructure (e.g., traffic lights, light posts, vehicle charging stations) to communicate with vehicles. Depending on the infrastructure implementation, these OWC solutions may include a fixed point-to-point OWC configuration (e.g., for charging station infrastructure) or a fixed point to moving point OWC configuration (e.g., for traffic light or light posts infrastructures).

 

Apple’s patent FIG. 10 below is a diagram depicting an OWC customized optical front-end design.

 

3 Project Titan

 

Apple’s patent application number 20200314614 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back March 2019.

 

For engineers, especially those working on future autonomous vehicle systems, who want to know more about Apple’s vision and proposed solutions for future autonomous communications, click here. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.

 

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