Apple's In-Car Technology Ambitions Revealed in 'Digital Dash' Patents

Earlier today, the U.S Patent and Trademark Office granted a patent to Apple (via AppleInsider) addressing in-vehicle navigation and information systems based on touchscreens offering tactile feedback. The feedback would allow users to operate their vehicle's systems in a safer manner while keeping their eyes on the road.

The disclosed invention, including co-pending applications incorporated by reference, contains unique embodiments which allow one to interact, by feel, with a display, called herein a "programmable tactile display". It encompasses two main focus areas: A display having features commonly associated with a touch screen, but in a new form which can be sensed in several tactile manners, as well as visually. A tactile selection or adjustment means, such as a knob, slider, or switch, programmable in its tactile or visual nature, and generally operated in conjunction with the touch screen just described.

The inventor listed on the patent is Timothy Pryor of Windsor, Ontario, and as we investigated his background we discovered that he is responsible for a concept he calls "Digital Dash", emphasizing a tactile display using knobs and switches that can be dynamically reconfigured via software to provide a multitude of functions based on whatever aspect of the navigation or information system is needed.

digital_dash_1

Pryor's concept for a reconfigurable "Digital Dash" with tactile input methods

The Reconfigurable Tactile Display (RTD) Control Interface offers a multifunctional display and control surface that answers the needs of stylists, product planners, engineers, and most importantly, consumers. Using the same display and control surface, the RTD dramatically changes its appearance and functionality with just a change of software. It features real knobs switches and sliders, which contribute to its intuitiveness and ease of use. [...]

Consumers can benefit from a personalized control layout and software graphics configuration. Graphics may cover the entirety of the RTD, and these can easily change colors and design. The RTD offers all the telematics and digital entertainment options of other multifunctional solutions while remaining intuitive and easy to use.

digital_dash_2

Pryor's concept for a reconfigurable "Digital Dash" with tactile input methods

In examining Pryor's previous patents, we discovered that Apple acquired the rights to a number of his patents and patent applications related to the technology, as well as future patents derived from those works, back in March 2010. A copy of the assignment agreement was filed with the patent office shortly after.


Other patents related to the "Digital Dash" initiative include methods for sensing touch inputs on displays such as vehicle navigation systems, as well as additional details on how in-vehicle displays can be dynamically reconfigured.

ios_in_the_car_traffic

Apple's "iOS in the Car" vision for iOS 7

With the technology detailed in these Digital Dash patents dating back to before their 2010 acquisition by Apple, other options for vehicle integration have of course become possible, with Apple having focused on Siri as a means for interacting with navigation and other services while in the car. Apple rolled out an "Eyes Free" mode for Siri in iOS 6 last year, although carmakers are only just getting around to building support for the feature. Apple is becoming even more ambitious in iOS 7 with "iOS in the Car", which would allow iOS devices to take over in-car displays via AirPlay to provide seamless integration.

Top Rated Comments

WestonHarvey1 Avatar
141 months ago
Grotesque mockups.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ChrisCW11 Avatar
141 months ago
Already prior art on this

I mean, Tesla has a large tablet as a control interface and a few luxury car brands have digital dash concepts already in prototype products.

http://www.engadget.com/2013/01/08/qnx-concept-bentley-continental-gt/

However in general I find that On-screen buttons and control knobs goes against the message of safety while driving.

Currently with "real" buttons, I can adjust the temp, change the volume, or even the a radio station without having to look at the interface. However with a virtual dashboard, I have to first look to ensure I am on the right view, and then I have to look specifically to ensure my finger is in the right area to change a setting, and maintain sight to ensure I reach the right setting value. Tactile feedback such as the screen vibrating when I am in the right area is not "good enough".

This also goes against Apple's "sightless" concepts for bringing more Siri like features into the car that do not require a screen or interface to interact with.

Overall while this concept is "cool", it's overall not safe and should be left in an R&D notebook. This will also encourage bringing "apps" onto the car dashboard which further distracts the driver from doing the one and only thing that matters while in a car, driving.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
carlgo Avatar
141 months ago
...

Currently with "real" buttons, I can adjust the temp, change the volume, or even the a radio station without having to look at the interface. ...

...


Someday, some luxury brand will "introduce" analogue controls and people will be amazed at how easy and safe they are to operate. Then, others will copy that and everyone will look at these screens as old fashioned and stupid.

Actual knobs and buttons are better than virtual ones in every respect.

These screens just impress people who don't know better.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
scottjl Avatar
141 months ago
I have a vehicle with Ford MyTouch in it, have to say it's an absolutely horrible system. Horrible UI, poor performance and regular crashes (black screens of death requiring me to pull over, stop the vehicle, wait a few minutes, then start the car back up to reboot the system). I've had the HVAC go haywire when MFT has crashed on me as well. I've upgraded my system 3 times so far and I'm not alone in issues with MFT (though there are some people who say they have never had a problem).

My next vehicle will have a plain old radio that just plays music, far too much to fail on these systems
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tmarks11 Avatar
141 months ago
I hate touch screen controls in a car. Analog old style knobs and buttons that you can turn and push without looking at are the way to go.

Touch screen controls that you have to look at to operate are a crash waiting to happen. Worse then using a cellphone while driving to induce loss of driver awareness IMHO.

I drove a rental car recently that had all touch screen controls. To change ventilation air from floor vent to defrost required 5 separate pushes of the touchscreen. SELECT CONTROLS... VENTILATION... CHANGE VENT MODE.... SELECT DEFROST ... ARE YOU SURE (YES/NO) :eek:?. Really, like if I pushed defrost by accident the car would blow up! What was the point of the verification screen? Asinine. PITA.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TimeSquareDesi Avatar
141 months ago
1) Mockups circa the the internet in 1995.

2) This is a great idea and Tesla already has a similar setup in their cars. I have been using a tablet in my car for years and am in the process of mounting an ipad mini in front of my head unit. Nothing beats google maps for navigation!!
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iOS 18 Siri Integrated Feature

iOS 18 Will Add These New Features to Your iPhone

Friday April 12, 2024 11:11 am PDT by
iOS 18 is expected to be the "biggest" update in the iPhone's history. Below, we recap rumored features and changes for the iPhone. iOS 18 is rumored to include new generative AI features for Siri and many apps, and Apple plans to add RCS support to the Messages app for an improved texting experience between iPhones and Android devices. The update is also expected to introduce a more...
iGBA Feature

Game Boy Emulator for iPhone Now Available in App Store Following Rule Change [Removed]

Sunday April 14, 2024 8:06 am PDT by
A week after Apple updated its App Review Guidelines to permit retro game console emulators, a Game Boy emulator for the iPhone called iGBA has appeared in the App Store worldwide. The emulator is already one of the top free apps on the App Store charts. It was not entirely clear if Apple would allow emulators to work with all and any games, but iGBA is able to load any Game Boy ROMs that...
top stories 13apr2024

Top Stories: M4 Mac Roadmap Leaked, New iPads in Second Week of May, and More

Saturday April 13, 2024 6:00 am PDT by
Apple's hardware roadmap was in the news this week, with things hopefully firming up for a launch of updated iPad Pro and iPad Air models next month while we look ahead to the other iPad models and a full lineup of M4-based Macs arriving starting later this year. We also heard some fresh rumors about iOS 18, due to be unveiled at WWDC in a couple of months, while we took a look at how things ...
new best buy blue

Best Buy Opens Up Sitewide Sale With Record Low Prices on M3 MacBook Air, iPad, and Much More

Saturday April 13, 2024 7:41 am PDT by
Best Buy this weekend has a big sale on Apple MacBooks and iPads, including new all-time low prices on the M3 MacBook Air, alongside the best prices we've ever seen on MacBook Pro, iPad, and more. Some of these deals require a My Best Buy Plus or My Best Buy Total membership, which start at $49.99/year. In addition to exclusive access to select discounts, you'll get free 2-day shipping, an...
iPhone 16 Camera Lozenge 2 Colors

iPhone 16 Plus Rumored to Come in These 7 Colors

Wednesday April 10, 2024 3:52 am PDT by
Apple's iPhone 16 Plus may come in seven colors that either build upon the existing five colors in the standard iPhone 15 lineup or recast them in a new finish, based on a new rumor out of China. According to the Weibo-based leaker Fixed focus digital, Apple's upcoming larger 6.7-inch iPhone 16 Plus model will come in the following colors, compared to the colors currently available for the...
apple silicon feature joeblue

Macs to Get AI-Focused M4 Chips Starting in Late 2024

Thursday April 11, 2024 10:10 am PDT by
Apple will begin updating its Mac lineup with M4 chips in late 2024, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. The M4 chip will be focused on improving performance for artificial intelligence capabilities. Last year, Apple introduced the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max chips all at once in October, so it's possible we could see the M4 lineup come during the same time frame. Gurman says that the entire...