Could the Apple car come with auto-tinting windows? This patent suggests it might

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A newly-discovered Apple patent may have big repercussions for our privacy while driving, with the iPhone maker and tech giant developing a host of technologies that could fit into a single car window pane.

The patent details a car window that can alter its transparency and tint, implying that users could vary the amount of tint or even visibility through the window from different sides – allowing passengers to see out, but be shielded from those looking in.

Even more exciting is the patent's supposed automation features, with sensors allowing the window to vary its tint or reflectiveness in response to external weather conditions – say, when the sun is beating down hard on the open road. If your sunglasses can auto-tint in the sunshine, why not your windshield?

The technology patent specifically details features such as "adjustable tint layers, adjustable reflectivity layers, and adjustable haze layers" to be "incorporated into a window." There's also mention of "fixed partially reflective mirrors, fixed tint layers, and/or fixed haze layers" that "may be used in place" of their adjustable counterparts, or even alongside them.

The patent was initially filed back in July 2017, but it's only now it's been made public. That means Apple has been sitting on the tech for a few years, and that may well mean we're close to seeing the technology in action on the road. That is, if Apple ever gets around to releasing its own car...

Fruits of knowledge

The auto-tinting and semi-tinting features detailed in the patent are exciting for any car enthusiast, adding an element of user control and practical convenience around the realities of driving in sunny weather. The increased privacy would be highly welcome too.

Countless patents never see the light of day, so we can't be sure how far down the road Apple will take this one. 

We've also been hearing rumors around an Apple self-driving car for years now, with the company being well into on-the-road tests for self-driving vehicles, though no specific product (or product roadmap) has been announced so far.


Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.