Apple, a maker of many devices with glass in them, filed a patent for a system that uses electrical current to determine the presence of cracks and other imperfections in glass. This pitch isn’t for use in an iPhone or iPad; rather, it’s intended for car windshields.
The patent, which was filed in August, published last week and unearthed by Roadshow (via FreePatentsOnline), would be made possible by a conductive film sandwiched between layers of glass. Here’s how it’s explained in the abstract:
Terminals formed from elongated strips of metal may be coupled to the edges of one or more of the conductive layers in the window. The terminals may include segmented terminals and terminals that extend across the entire width or height of the window. Elongated terminals may extend past multiple segmented terminals. Using these terminals, the control circuitry can apply localized ohmic heating currents and can make resistance measurements on the conductive layers to detect cracks.
Now, you might wonder why anyone would need a complex electrical system to tell them when their windshield is damaged, given that the human eye happens to be a pretty effective glass crack-detecting device. Excluding the possibility you might miss the damage, perhaps a system like the one described could detect an imperceptible fracture before it becomes a big problem.
And, while it’s fun to rag on Apple for developing yet another technology designed to tell people what they should already know, I’ll give them a pass here: Lots of people put off necessary windshield repair and replacement. Some folks, unfortunately, need to be prodded, and that’s part of the idea here too, as the application goes onto explain:
“Control circuitry may send an email message or other message to a user that informs the user of the detected crack and advises the user to schedule a service appointment for vehicle. Vehicle may also schedule the service appointment automatically without intervention by the user or following a brief confirmation from the user.”
The real downside here is that such technology would likely make your windshield more expensive to replace or harder to repair when it is damaged. Thankfully, these aren’t concerns you should worry about just yet, as patents are hardly guarantees of technologies destined for production anytime soon.
As for whether or not you’ll see something like this in an eventual Apple car, even that possibility is looking slim these days. The company has reportedly waffled on building vehicles at all, instead at times opting to concentrate its efforts on autonomous driving software alone. The last big update we heard on the subject dates back to January 2019, when CNBC reported Apple laid off 200 employees from its Project Titan team responsible for its autonomous vehicle endeavors.