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Apple Applies for Self-Driving Car Tech Patent

Apple may not be front and centre in the race to create driverless cars, but its fabled plans for autonomous vehicles are not to be discounted either.

The tech giant has just applied for a new patent for self-driving technology. The document, published on Thursday, offers a compelling glimpse on how Apple thinks self-driving cars could move around more efficiently.

According to CNBC, the patent— titled “Autonomous Navigation System”— reveals that Apple’s approach to enhance driverless navigation would depend mainly on “reducing the need to constantly remake detailed maps.”

The patent’s stipulates that many driverless car systems navigate the space relying on static maps— and later integrating them with sensor-harvested real-time information about changing elements in the environment. The usage of such maps is instrumental to reduce the car’s already massive processing workload.


A screenshot from Apple’s patent “Autonomous Navigation System”

But Apple’s proposed new system would steer the car “independently of any data received from any devices external to the vehicle, and any navigation data stored locally to the vehicle prior to any monitoring of navigation.”

In other words, the Cupertino-based giant aims at  getting rid of maps, instead modelling a car’s surroundings by harnessing sensors and on-vehicle processors only.

The approach departs from the self-driving car sector’s general wisdom , which regards high-definition maps as key.

If the idea laid out in the patent works, it would be an interesting, wrong-footing move on Apple’s part. It is also an idea likely borne out of necessity, since Apple is increasingly falling behind its main rival —and self-driving company Waymo’s owner— Alphabet when it comes to gathering accurate, high-quality mapping data.

For the time being, Apple’s self-driving vehicle plans keep going. Although it shelved its initial plans for manufacturing a whole self-driving electric vehicle in 2016, the company has partnered with Chrysler in Arizona to trial its autonomous navigation technology.


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