Apple patent imagines adjustable tinted windows for your future car

Need more privacy? Apple thinks future technology could adjust window tint on the fly, or as the occupant desires.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read

Imagine being able to tint windows on the fly.

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Whether it's to block sunlight and keep a car cooler or to keep curious eyes out of the cockpit, window tint is really the only way to accomplish those goals. Tint also requires a commitment to the darker shade, but a new Apple patent imagines a world where all of this happens instantly.

Filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on April 21, this patent describes a vehicle window with control circuitry and adjustable layers for tint, reflectivity and even haze. Apple's patent describes a process where one or more of these layers fit between a pair of glass window layers and could work in one of two ways.

First, the technology giant says the system could work on its own as the system collects data and sensors adjust tint, haze and other elements automatically. Basically, imagine a cloudy day shifting to full-blown sun suddenly. These smart windows would shift, based on sensor data, to tint automatically. It also seems reasonable a vehicle owner could set parameters for when they want the tint to shift, remain full time and some other variables. The patent does describe some input-output devices that could also supply information, too. Second, the language suggests drivers or passengers could control all of the functions themselves.

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The wildest part of this patent talks about one-way functions. For example, perhaps a passenger wants to see clearly to the outdoors, but doesn't want those outside to look in. The layers could shift to provide a milky view inward, but a crystal-clear view outward with haze functions. The same might be possible for tint options, too. Apple mentions cholesteric liquid crystals to accomplish quick switching speeds, depending on what a passenger wants in the moment.

Boeing showed a similar concept last year that could provide dimmable glass for auto windows, but it sounds like Apple is taking things a step further.

Patents are never a sure-fire piece of evidence to conclude some sort of technology is production bound. That's especially true for companies like Apple, which files thousands of patents. However, in recent years, we've seen more and more auto-related patents from Apple, which continue to feed rumors the tech giant has vehicle technology in mind for the future.

Watch this: Smart car windows are coming