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Anyone that uses ridesharing apps on a daily basis is very familiar with how difficult it can be at times to find the car designated for you. If you're at crowded locations like concerts or restaurants, it can be almost impossible to distinguish between what car is for you and what car is for the people near you. Drivers face similar problems and are often caught in the middle of traffic looking for their passengers.

Apps like Uber and Lyft now include license plate numbers and other identifying info for the rider, but Apple is trying to get a leg up on the competition, filing a patent application yesterday detailing efforts to create augmented reality systems that deal with this very problem.

"Mobile apps are helpful for requesting a car to provide transportation. But, high usage of such mobile apps can cause confusion in an urban environment where there are many cars and where other people may also be waiting on a car," they wrote in their application.

"A pin or dot identifying a GPS coordinate may not provide sufficient accuracy in a crowded environment. Therefore, it is desirable to provide devices that can assist in identifying the correct vehicle that a passenger is waiting to enter."

Apple referred to the system as an "augmented reality interface for facilitating identification of arriving vehicle," adding that it can come in a variety of iterations depending on the app or mobile device used.

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"According to some embodiments of the invention, a mobile device may be used by a passenger to scan scenery. The mobile device may determine whether and where a requested vehicle is located and display an indicator of the requested vehicle on the mobile device," Apple wrote.

"Similarly, a mobile device may be used by a driver to scan scenery. The mobile device may determine whether and where a passenger is located and display an indicator of the requesting passenger on the mobile device."

Apple describes a number of different methods that could be used for passengers and drivers to identify each other using AR, including one where your rear-facing camera can identify the specific car or license plate for you and highlight it on your screen with either an outline or an arrow.

The system would do the reverse for drivers, identifying which person is their prospective passenger through their face, clothing, hairstyle, height and weight. When the driver and passenger get near each other, the Apple device may also notify both to use their device to scan the area for the other person.

Apple said in the application that the AR system would also be useful for anyone taking public transportation in countries where they do not speak the language.

Apple has been on the forefront of incorporating AR into their systems, and in March they released ARKit 1.5, a platform designed to help app makers incorporate AR features into their app's functionality.

ARKit has already been used in a variety of ways for a multitude of different actions. An intern at eBay spearheaded an effort to create HeadGaze, an iOS app that lets you move around an iPhone screen with only a turn of the head. The app is designed for those with physical disabilities or conditions that make it difficult to use their hands. With the app, you can browse and move through your iPhone with just a glance.

Apple is planning to expand ARKit and allow more apps to use it for a number of different purposes.

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Takeaways

  1. Apple filed a patent application for a device interface that would allow you to use AR with ridesharing apps in an effort to make it easier to find drivers or passengers.
  2. The application had plans for a wide variety of ways ridesharing apps could incorporate AR, including systems that would allow the device's camera to search an area and find a corresponding passenger or driver.

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Jonathan is a Contributing Writer for CNET's Download.com. He's a freelance journalist based in New York City. He recently returned to the United States after reporting from South Africa, Jordan, and Cambodia since 2013.