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

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Jul 9, 2013.

  1. macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    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 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.

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

    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.

    Article Link: Apple's In-Car Technology Ambitions Revealed in 'Digital Dash' Patents
  2. macrumors 68020

    Jan 9, 2007
  3. macrumors member

    Jan 20, 2011
  4. macrumors regular


    Apr 25, 2013
    Vacaville, CA
    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!!
  5. macrumors 6502

    Jul 21, 2011
    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.

    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.
  6. macrumors 68000

    Apr 22, 2008
    Those mock ups couldn't be anymore un-Apple if they tried.
  7. macrumors 6502a

    Oct 15, 2008
    I think you all have missed the main point here. Touch screen dashes have been in use for years and Tesla's takes it to a new level. The important part in this is the tactile part. The patent is for a screen that can give feedback so that you feel the controls, making it easier and safer than a smooth piece of glass.
  8. macrumors regular

    Jun 9, 2009
    I see a couple issues

    I can see this system as trying to do to much and being distracting for many drivers. Lets face it, some people are not good with technology or with multitasking particularly while driving.

    I know Apple is sometimes good at making things simple and intuitive yet I fear it will still be to complicated for many people.

    It is already bad enough when getting into an unfamiliar car and to not know how to work things. I'm thinking of the person who has to pull over and read the manual because the simplest thing has become overly complicated.

    Climate controls is a case in point....funny how the cheapest cars are the easiest to use. I don't need or want a computer to adjust the temperature when simply turning a dial works fine.
  9. macrumors 68040


    Mar 27, 2009
    Seattle, WA
  10. macrumors regular

    Dec 13, 2003
    I feel like you somehow missed the entire point of this system. It combines the benefits of a touch screen display with the benefits of real buttons. It is meant to address the issues you are talking about, allowing people to manipulate a touchscreen without having to look at it.
  11. macrumors 6502

    Jun 3, 2013
  12. macrumors 68000

    Dec 29, 2006
  13. macrumors 68000

    Four oF NINE

    Sep 28, 2011
  14. Ieo
    macrumors 6502

    Jun 17, 2009
    Even IF they incorporate an adaptive tactile whatever into a touchscreen, I feel it still won't be as eyes-free as traditional knobs and buttons. Even if the touchscreen has some sort of tactile feedback that proactively differentiates the controls rather than reactively like the haptic feedback we currently know, it's still just a texture variation on a large flat glass're still going to have to look at the screen and home in on the area. Currently with knobs and bottons, I can reach out and muscle memory guides me to the general vicinity, and then my fingers make contact with the physical 3D object.

    I also feel this is making aftermarket iOS in the car less likely...what we've seen of iOS in the car so far could easily be incorporated into an aftermarket head unit, bringing Apple's "It just works" functionality to nearly every car owner. This makes it look like they'll be going down the road of exclusive and proprietary, and that sucks for those of us who don't have the expendable income to purchase a new car based on iPhone compatibility.
  15. macrumors 68040


    Dec 19, 2004
    Just what I want. Something integrated into my car that is completely obsolete and useless within five years. Touch screen A/C and radio controls so I have to take my eyes off the road for an extended period of time rather than knobs and buttons I can memorize and operate by touch or a brief glance.

    Don't get me wrong. I'd actually want something from Apple if it uses a standardized Double DIN radio space. I just wouldn't want it integrated into car functions talking to the car's computer, operating the A/C, &c. Nor have buttons around the car that operate it which would become useless buttons when it is replaced. Thus it can be replaced with a new deck when obsolete. It would need buttons for track/tuning, source, volume and power at the very least so you can operate while driving safely.

    The way I see it. Basically it would be in iPad with added ability to integrate with cell phones for handsfree calling via bluetooth, uninterruptable GPS so that calls don't interrupt directions, stereo amplifier and RCA outputs for external amps, and inputs (Siri/XM, radio antennae and auxillary device). Perhaps make it more on the lines of OS X with an iOS skin. That way it could better handle multiprocessing and multiple screens and audio outputs so that the kids can watch separate movies in the back with headphones on while you have a GPS and stereo in the front. Yet work well with a touch interface.
  16. macrumors newbie

    Aug 11, 2011
    Is this an in-car customizable interface or an LCARS customizable interface?
  17. macrumors 68000

    Dec 29, 2006
  18. macrumors 6502a

    Jul 6, 2010
    Most cars these days have steering wheel controls, and I am pretty sure you can control most of the stuff from there.
  19. macrumors 65816

    Jul 29, 2011
    So is that what they mean by "Pryor art"...?

    I'll get my coat.
  20. macrumors 6502

    Feb 22, 2010
    This should not be patent worthy.
    Re-configurable display? I can do this for various guages with Torque on my phone or tablet.

    Tactile feedback = Haptic Feedback.

    Nothing unique and quite obvious if you have a screen you can move the elements.

    Once again, and idea patent and not an implementation. Fail!
  21. macrumors 6502a

    Jun 9, 2013
    They aren't patenting the idea, just their design. And I was just about to say before I saw your comment that an iPad in a car would be 10x better than the goofy 17" screen Tesla puts in all of their Model S cars. The Tesla digital dash control is probably the best right now (besides how ridiculously large the screen is), but it's still annoying and really expensive.
  22. macrumors member

    Nov 19, 2010
    So blame the Patent system in the US, not Apple for having to deal with it. Funny but you have no criticism for what the patent is about, just the patent nightmare US companies have to go through.
  23. macrumors 6502

    May 3, 2010
    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.
  24. macrumors 6502a

    Jun 9, 2013
    Range Rover vs Honda Accord:
    Want to listen to the radio on the Rover? Enjoy tapping through 5 screens or repeatedly pressing a button on the other side of the dash (as if the dash was made for Britain) to tune it. If you want to raise the volume, there's a dial, but a graphic comes up and blocks the entire screen. On the Accord, you just have to turn one dial for tuning and one dial for volume, and they're easy to reach.

    Although I love the idea of an iPad for certain in-car functions like navigation, I'd really want a dial for climate control as a manual override to whatever climate control features the iPad has.
  25. macrumors member

    Nov 19, 2010
    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

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