Apple’s Project Titan car has long been shrouded in mystery—most of what we know about it comes in the form of patents that trickle out into the public every few months. The latest patent, released this morning and originally filed in November 2016, shows Apple at one point imagined an extendable, somewhat inflatable, bumper.
Here’s how it would work, according to the patent: The bumper houses an inflatable portion, which extends out when inflated. The inflatable panels are filled with pressurized gas and are meant to provide “soft initial contact in an impact.” The bumper can then be retracted using a spring mechanism. Meanwhile, a flexible hinge keeps the bumper cover attached to the car.
Why, in Steve Jobs’ name, would Apple want retractable bumpers? Design is one reason. Theoretically, you could create a more streamlined design with those minimalist clean edges Apple is so fond of without, perhaps, sacrificing safety. There are some practical uses, too. For example, parking. As Apple Insider notes, it’d be way easier to park in tight spaces if you could physically make your car smaller by retracting the bumper.
But until Tim Cook decides to get up on stage with a polished presentation reel, this is all just speculation. Project Titan was initially thought to be an Apple-branded car, but recent developments indicate Apple’s more keen on building a self-driving car. Earlier in January, Apple laid off over 200 employees working on Project Titan in an attempt to ‘restructure,’ but a few months later, the Cupertino giant was on the hunt for better self-driving car sensors. Other recent reports allege Apple is also building large driving rooms to test self-driving cars. Let’s also not forget that within the last year, Apple has hired two former Tesla employees, Andrew Kim and Doug Field. Plus, it’s only been a few weeks since the last Project Titan patent for a haptic feedback system was made public. Coincidence? Maybe—but also maybe not.
So yes, it’s likely Apple is still working on car tech. Or was. Whatever. As for what form it takes, we’ll just have to wait and see.