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Apple self-driving car patent describes how it can figure out where you want to go

Apple may have seemingly modified its ambitions from a self-driving car to technology which can be used in other manufacturer’s vehicles, but it’s still doing plenty of work on making that tech as smart as possible.

A new patent application published today describes a number of different methods a self-driving car could use to figure out exactly where its owner wants to go …

The patent application (spotted by Patently Apple) refers to these clues as ‘intent signals.’

One method would be the owner using an indirect steering wheel or joystick to direct the car. In this case, the steering wheel wouldn’t be connected to the car mechanically, but would guide the electronics in the right direction.

But the patent mostly focuses on more indirect methods. For example, if the owner has told the car to go to a large retail store, it could then ask for further guidance when it gets there, based on the intent.

For example, if the individual states “I’d like to buy some plants for my garden” in the vicinity of a large retail store, the navigation manager may determine that the vehicle should preferably be parked near an entrance marked “gardening” or “gardening supplies”.

Another approach would be gestures. One of the drawings illustrates the owner telling the car to ‘park over there’ and pointing to a location while they have their phone in their hand. The car could then use the phone’s accelerometer to work out where the owner is pointing, and object recognition to figure out matching landmarks, clarifying as required.

Did you mean park near <object 845> or near <object 855>?

Apple describes the aim of the patent as moving from less autonomy – such as the owner specifying the intersection of two streets – to more autonomy, like saying they want coffee, the car then using things like past history to guess where the owner wants to get that coffee, verifying as required.

The patent also describes using drop-down menus to clarify the exact destination. For example, when the owner says ‘Let’s go to the office,’ the car could offer a choice of parking near their cubicle, a conference room or the cafeteria. The same approach could also be used via voice.

Owners would even be able to direct the car while standing outside it, for example using touch and gesture to effectively say ‘No, not that parking space, this one.’ That one could be useful when shuffling cars on a driveway to allow other guests in or out.

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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