By on November 30, 2020

If you’re doing any kind of regular driving, it’s likely a matter of time before you’ll find yourself confronting a cracked windshield. Maybe a stray rock chips the glass and it spiders out as the car is heat cycled through the winter or perhaps an errant baseball does some real damage during a summer afternoon catch with the family. There is a multitude of reasons but only one outcome — pure, unadulterated rage leading into some mental math as you ask yourself how long you might be able to get away with it going unfixed.

Well, those days may soon be over (minus the rage) because Apple filed a patent application earlier this month that describes a system that would monitor the resistance of a conductive film placed inside/against a sheet of laminated glass.

The patent application was filed in the United States on November 19th and shared by CNET on Monday. Here’s how it’s explained in the abstract:

A system such as a vehicle may have windows with one or more conductive layers. The conductive layers may form part of an infrared-light-blocking layer or other layer. The infrared-light-block layer or other layer may be formed as a coating on a transparent structural window layer such as an outer or inner glass layer in a laminated window or may be embedded in a polymer layer between the outer and inner layers. Segmented terminals and elongated terminals that may extend past two or more segmented terminals may be coupled to the edges of the conductive layer. Using these terminals, control circuitry can apply localized ohmic heating currents and make resistance measurements on the conductive layers to detect cracks.

Based on the general trend connected vehicles are pursuing, the obvious application would be a system that allows the vehicle to tattle on you to the manufacturer or insurer. Alternatively, the system could also pick up on cracks before they become visible — allowing customers to fix them long before they get begin impacting visibility. Unfortunately, it also seems like the sort of thing that would make replacement windshields cost a fortune.

[Image: What Photo/Shutterstock]

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41 Comments on “Apple Patent Application Detects Cracked Windshields...”


  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    “the obvious application would be a system that allows the vehicle to tattle on you to the manufacturer or insurer”
    Yup.
    :-/

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Another key word from the same paragraph – “would also make replacement windshields cost a fortune”

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        “would also make replacement windshields cost a fortune”

        Would also make replacement windshields more profitable not to mention provide OEMs a mechanism to extract money from aftermarket windshield makers.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        I doubt it. Conductive transparent film? Yeah, not new technology – every touchscreen.

        And notice it talks about IR blockers and other coatings – IR blockers aren’t new, especially for higher-end cars. (And while more expensive, claims are they pay for themselves in a few years in reduced fuel use for cooling in summer, since less IR means less heat means less AC.)

        Adding terminals and some logic to existing coating layers, or a cheap “just sensor” coating layer, just isn’t that expensive.

        What I don’t see (and see below about “patent doesn’t meant product”) is any compelling market for it, which is why I think this patent will stay a patent rather than a product, or be a product only in specialized markets that have some particular need for automatic crack detection.

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      Given that most policies cover glass, and require a replacement if it is line of sight, this would cost the insurer money.

      I just paid $100 for my windshield replacement because the crack was in the line of sight. I suspect the windshield was a good $1200 plus the labor of recalibrating everything.

      Apple could have simplified their system to listen for a rock hit, followed by me swearing like a sailor.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve Biro

        Garrett… do you have any driver assistance technology in your car? I mean with cameras behind the windshield. It sounds like you do, because a new windshield that cost perhaps $250 up until very recently will now cost $1250 including recalibration of the cameras. Vehicles continue to become increasingly – and unnecessarily – complex and expensive. One possible cure to Apple’s helpful invention: unplug any internet connectivity in the vehicle in question.

        • 0 avatar
          Garrett

          Indeed I do! Between the glass having the sound insulation, infrared whatever, and all the safety dohickeys, I ended up with OEM glass despite going with my insurer’s preferred provider Safelite.

          Took them about a month to even get the windshield in stock – I suspect the pandemic made things a bit difficult there.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      Great, now I will be getting a cease and desist from Apple every time I see damage to my windshield with my eyes and they will block me from repairing it anywhere other than an Apple Store and charge us all 4 times what it costs to repair while expecting us to be thankful for the opportunity to pay them.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Are we sure this is for automotive application? Maybe this is just for your phone.

    If its for vehicles then based on the nonstop ads I see on TV Safelite says my insurance will pay for a new windshield at no cost to me.

    Thinking long term – having non-cracked windows is going to be key for autonomous driving systems. Having a system identify that the view foward is compromised is kind of important.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      The application specifically references “vehicles having windows” and a lot of the language seems to point toward automotive use.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Safelite is my insurance’s — Nationwide — captive glass provider as well. Nothing done to my current car yet (knocking on wood), but my last one had a chip filled which was in the line of sight, but fortunately, a bigger piece started an unseen crack up in the tint brow a year or two later, which heat-cycled to needing the entire windshield replaced.

      Heaven knows how expensive a replacement for my Accord would be, with the large area for the HUD needed. My last car needed no camera recalibration.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    If it’s big enough to worry about, I can see the crack without any software apps. If I can’t see the crack with the naked eye, it’s not big enough to worry about.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I want this feature in a spacecraft or a submarine, not a car. Isn’t the outcome for a cracked window pretty much always the same – replacement?

    Such a feature will cost incrementally more than the deductible for a new window, and most cars never need a new window anyway.

    Heck, my 09 Sedona’s windshield cost me $300 installed two years ago – less than my deductible.

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      Not necessarily.

      If it is out of line of sight, windshield repair is really impressive. If it is line of sight, it requires replacement typically.

      The age of $300 windshield may soon be in the past with all the safety tech.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    This is a system that answers a question car owners aren’t asking. If the windshield has a crack, the owner gets it repaired/replaced or he doesn’t. Given how effective and cheap crack repair is, it’s well worth getting them fixed. Even the ones that don’t completely disappear become much less distracting.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      For the most part, yes. The repair on my last car was always visible around where you’d check your lane centering to the right out of the windshield.

      I was happy when that windshield needed replacement!

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    I think we’re all fairly experienced with windshield cracks. At the moment I have a crack in every windshield I own. No big D, as I’ll get a bulk deal from the glass guy.

    This over-the-top tech reminds me of the time my friend’s 2006 M5 began discharging its battery overnight. Not being mechanically-inclined he headed for the dealership. Three days and $900 later the diagnoses was a faulty rain sensor. “Rain sensor? RAIN SENSOR?!”, he yelled down the phone at me, “I’m the @&^#ing rain sensor in this thing!”

    I’m the windshield sensor in my cars, Apple.

    • 0 avatar
      Drew8MR

      The windshield in my DD has been cracked for 10 years. Doesn’t bother me any.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      1) As above/below, “patent does not mean product” and “product does not mean mass-market product”.

      2) Rain sensors are GREAT, thank you very much, even if your friend’s BMW was bad about it.

      I’ve been the rain sensor in a lot of cars and I *looove* the way my XC70 can adjust wiper interval automatically to match rain, rather than constantly being either too slow or too fast, the way every other vehicle is.

  • avatar
    Old_WRX

    More expensive junk.

  • avatar

    We feel a pain when integrity of our skin is compromised. Our cars deserve the same so they can take appropriate actions before it turns into serious problem that requires windshield replacement (normally with cheap non-OEM crap).

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    This could also be used in the context of solar cell installations to tell the difference between a problem with a glass outer layer and an internal cell when the voltage of the cell dips. Consider that cheaper solar installations may be based on large interconnected substrates that have a lot in common with computer chips. They are laid and connected like tiles, and they may form huge surfaces, parking lots, even roads, so they have to be cheap and durable. The performance has to degrade gracefully, and when performance goes below a specific point, the installation should send a computer message telling you what part needs to be fixed or replaced. Each node has a physical and a computer address. It needs to tell you when the substrate is bad, the protective overlay is bad, or just there isn’t enough sun to generate any current.

  • avatar
    probert

    Finally our long national nightmare is over. Wonder if they’ll develop a way to tell when that space saver spare on the Monte Carlo is ready to blow.

    • 0 avatar
      Old_WRX

      probert,

      “space saver spare on the Monte Carlo is ready to blow.”

      No, but when it actually blows this is signaled to the operator by a loud bang and haptic feedback in the form of a wildly out of control vehicle. Unfortunately, I don’t think Apple will be able to patent that.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I just had my windshield replaced last week. A rock came flying off a dump truck and smash, right in my line of sight. Scared the stuffing out of me. My phone never said a word…

    Dumb phone :(

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    If Apple wants to put this on their own self-driving cars, fine. I think it’s stupid and pointless.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Patents don’t mean a production product, just that someone came up with the idea and wants to register it.

      I doubt Apple thinks this is something that Should Be On Every Car.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Really cool, but who cares?

  • avatar
    jkross22

    My windshield developed a crack when I drove it home from the dealer in 2010. I got the crack sealed within a day. It’s been there for the last 10 years and hasn’t expanded or bothered me. It’s just below my line of sight.

    Dang, I’ve had that car since before Obamacare. I got that car when the iphone 4 was hot and the only pandemic we’d heard about was the swine flu.

  • avatar
    lstanley

    Just wait until this technology also won’t allow your car to start until the windshield is replaced.

    It’s for your safety, Citizen!

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