Apple has patented a shape-shifting car seat that protects drivers by giving them a “hug” and vibrates to warn them of dangers on the road ahead.
The seat folds in on itself to move drivers into a safe position in the event of a crash. Meanwhile, seat belts inflate to protect drivers and passengers from injury.
The smart seat can also gently alert drivers of upcoming dangers on the road using vibrations rather than distracting beeps or visual cues.
The iPhone maker secured a patent this week for an intelligent seating system, called “Haptic Feedback for Dynamic Seating System”. It offers a rare glimpse into Apple’s closely-guarded self-driving car project, named “Project Titan”.
The patent filing offers details of some of the safety features of the cars.
“Expanding the adjustable bolster located in the under-knee position of the seat can prevent ‘submarining’,” the patent filing says, referring to the term used when during a collision the lower part of the body is pushed deep into the seat cushion.
“The restraint can pull the occupant securely into the seat, and expanding the adjustable bolsters that are located in the head and tailbone areas of the seat can further ‘hug’ the occupant to the seat.”
By monitoring the environment around the car, the on-board computer system can detect “aggressive driving behaviours” or adverse weather conditions and change the settings of the seating and the tension of the seatbelts to provide what Apple describes as a “sport” or “racing feel”.
It indicates that the system could also be used in every day situations, as well as during emergencies.
For example, if a vehicle is driving autonomously, the seat could change from a lying down position to an upright position as a sign to passengers that they are nearing their final destination.
“It may, for example, allow the occupant to avoid dropping an item or spilling a drink,” the filing says.
A New York Times report last year suggested Apple had pulled back on its plans to develop a self-driving car and would instead be focusing on developing software for autonomous vehicles.
However, images emerged of Apple’s first autonomous car on the roads of Silicon Valley earlier this year.
Last month, Apple accelerated its investment in self-driving cars, hiring Tesla’s chief vehicle engineer Doug Field to work on the project.
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