Apple wins a patent for advanced energy-absorbing safety devices to control motion of Seating Systems in future Autonomous Vehicles


 

On June 22, Patently Apple posted a report titled “Contrary to the facts known so far, Volkswagen’s CEO Bizarrely believes that Apple’s Project Titan is going to be limited to Software.” Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent that once again contradicts Volkswagen’s CEO. Apple’s granted patent covers safety systems and specifically to energy-absorbing devices configured to control motion of various components associated with seating systems.

 

In Apple’s patent background they note that conventional restraints, for example, seatbelts including lap portions, can include retractors that couple an anchor and belt material to secure an occupant to a seat and to control or limit up-down or z-direction motion of the restrained occupant during certain vehicle events such as rapid decelerations or imminent collisions. Conventional restraints are designed to affect this up-down control for a typical range of seat back positions consistent with upright vehicle operation, that is, positions where a recline angle between a seat back and a seat pan is limited, for example, under 30 degrees.

 

Design innovations related to interior features within a vehicle cabin are possible. For example, modular interior elements can include seat systems that can be arranged into a configuration consistent with the vehicle cabin serving as a mobile office, a living room, or a relaxation space.

 

In new seating arrangements, occupants may spend time with seat backs partially or full reclined, that is, at a variety of recline angles beyond those typical to conventional vehicle operation. Protecting occupants seated and secured to seat with a higher angle of rotation or recline between the seat pan and the seat back, that is, in deep recline, is a current challenge for safety system designers, as higher recline angles can increase a risk of submarining of an occupant secured to a seat under a variety of vehicle events, such as when the vehicle experiences high rates of acceleration or deceleration or is involved in a collision.

 

Prohibiting pelvis movement of the occupant to avoid submarining using a conventional restraint, retractor, and anchor can increase a risk of spinal injury based on higher axial and bending forces experienced in the lumbar spine region of an occupant secured to a seat at higher or deeper recline angles.

 

In an example related to axial forces acting upon a spine of an occupant during a vehicle event, the magnitude of axial forces experienced at a recline angle of 45 degrees can be 50% to 75% higher for the same vehicle event when compared to axial forces experienced at a recline angle of 23 degrees.

 

In another example, the magnitude of axial forces experienced at a recline angle of 60 degrees can be 100% to 150% higher for the same vehicle event when compared to axial forces experienced at a recline angle of 23 degrees. Similar relationships to those described for axial forces at various recline angles also exist for flexion or moments acting upon a spine of an occupant during a vehicle event.

 

Apple’s new safety system includes a restraint configured to secure an occupant to a seat, an anchor coupled to the restraint and movable along an anchor guide, an anchor energy-absorbing (EA) device configured to control movement of the anchor along the anchor guide, and a controller that includes a processor configured to receive information indicative of an imminent vehicle event, receive information indicative of a recline angle of the seat being above a recline threshold, and send a command to enable the anchor to move along the anchor guide under control of the anchor EA device based on the information indicative of the imminent vehicle event and the recline angle being above the recline threshold.

 

In the first aspect, the anchor can be movable along the anchor guide in at least one of a fore-aft direction or an up-down direction in relation to the seat. The processor can be further configured to receive information indicative of the recline angle being below a recline threshold and send a command to prohibit movement of the anchor along the anchor guide based on the information indicative of the recline angle being below the recline threshold.

 

The safety system can include an anchor release mechanism movable between a locked position in which the anchor release mechanism restrains movement of the anchor relative to the anchor guide and an unlocked position in which the anchor release mechanism permits movement of the anchor relative to the anchor guide. The processor can be further configured to send a command to the anchor release mechanism to cause the anchor release mechanism to move from the locked position to the unlocked position based on the information indicative of the imminent vehicle event and the recline angle being above the recline threshold.

 

The recline threshold can be greater than or equal to 45 degrees or greater than or equal to 60 degrees. The anchor EA device can comprise an EA element disposed within the anchor guide and configured to deform above a predetermined load threshold to control movement of the anchor along the anchor guide. The EA element can include notches spaced along a longitudinal axis of the anchor guide. The anchor EA device can comprise a cable coupled to the anchor and configured to payout from a cable guide above a predetermined load threshold to control movement of the anchor along the anchor guide. The cable guide can comprise a spool and a torsion bar configured to control payout of the cable about the spool and along the anchor guide. The cable can comprise a ductile strip and the cable guide comprises barriers configured to deform the ductile stripe to control payout of the ductile strip along the anchor guide. The features described here in respect to the first aspect can be used together or independently in the safety system.

 

Apple’s patent FIGS. 1A and 1B below show a motion diagram for an example of a seat and a restraint for use with a vehicle; FIGS. 2A, 2B, and 2C show motion diagrams for examples of a safety system for use with a vehicle.

 

2 Apple patent figs for new safety restraint system for autonomous vehicles

 

More specifically, in the example of FIG. 2A, a dotted-line arrow C indicates that the anchor #208 can move in a fore-aft or x-direction prior to or during a vehicle event, with motion of the anchor shown in a forward direction prior to or during the vehicle event. Controlled movement of the anchor allows the safety system to control displacement of a lower body or pelvis of an occupant in the fore-aft or x-direction while at the same time maintaining a sufficient up-down or z-direction force (for example, using a retractor, not shown) to secure the occupant to the seat (#200) with the restraint (#202). Controlling x-direction and z-direction motion and forces can control submarining and limit axial and bending forces experienced in the lumbar spine region of an occupant secured to the seat to ensure occupant safety.

In the example of FIG. 2B, a dotted-line arrow D indicates that the anchor can move in both the fore-aft or x-direction and the up-down or z-direction prior to or during a vehicle event, with motion of the anchor being both in a forward and a downward direction prior to or during the vehicle event. Use of this configuration can be useful if testing of the safety system indicates that up-down or z-direction force generated by the restraint decreases during fore-aft or x-direction translation of the anchor. This is, the safety system can use a downward-sloping anchor guide (#214) as shown in FIG. 2B to decrease slack in the lap portion (#210) of the restraint during fore-aft or x-direction movement of the anchor and/or to increase the z-direction force of the restraint.

In the example of FIG. 2C, a dotted-line arrow E indicates that the anchor can move in both the fore-aft or x-direction and the up-down or z-direction prior to or during a vehicle event, with motion of the anchor 208 being both in a forward and an upward direction prior to or during the vehicle event. Use of this configuration can be useful if testing of the safety system indicates that up-down or z-direction force generated by the restraint increases during fore-aft or x-direction translation of the anchor 208. This is, the safety system can use an upward-sloping anchor guide as shown in FIG. 2C to increase slack in the lap portion of the restraint during fore-aft or x-direction movement of the anchor and/or decrease the z-direction force of the restraint.

 

For deeper details, review Apple’s granted patent 11,377,066

 

10.52FX - Granted Patent Bar





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