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Apple Has Designed an iPhone-Based Car Key

2016 Honda Accord with Apple CarPlay®2016 Honda Accord with Apple CarPlay®
2016 Honda Accord with Apple CarPlay.Courtesy of Honda

As if there wasn’t already enough evidence to suggest Apple is working on a car, a newly-awarded patent has thrown more fuel on that flame.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has awarded Apple (AAPL) a patent on controlling a vehicle using a portable device, such as an iPhone or iPad. The patent, which was earlier discovered by Apple-tracking sites Patently Apple and 9to5 Mac, specifically describes how a device could access the vehicle’s computer and tell it what to do, including unlock its doors, start it up, and much more.

“For example, a vehicle-related operation can be an operation to unlock a vehicle’s doors, unlock a vehicle’s storage compartment, start a vehicle’s engine, activate a vehicle’s audio or audiovisual entertainment system, activate a vehicle’s global positioning system (GPS), activate a vehicle’s dashboard console, turn on a vehicle’s passenger compartment lights, adjust a vehicle’s seats, turn on a vehicle’s headlights, open a vehicle’s sun roof, turn on a vehicle’s windshield wipers, activate a vehicle’s automatic parking system, activate a vehicle’s wireless communication system, and/or the like,” Apple wrote in its lengthy description of its patent.

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The car and app would connect via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or a cellular data network, according to the patent.

Due to how broad the patent is, it might sound like some technologies already available in cars. Several auto companies, for instance, sell vehicles that communicate with apps that can start it up and lock its doors. Tesla (TSLA), the electric car maker, also has a connected app providing a wide range of features, including the ability to auto-park the vehicle.

 

 

However, Apple’s patent adds an extra component: support for two devices to control the vehicle. The first would be a primary device with full control over the vehicle. Another, called the secondary device, would essentially take orders from the primary device on how it can control the vehicle and access its functions. So, if someone else with the secondary device is allowed access to the car, the primary device would set certain limitations on how the secondary device could interact with the vehicle, including whether the car can be started and how far it can go.

While it’s unclear whether Apple’s technology will ever make its way to vehicles—companies will often times patent all types of technologies that may never make their way to actual products, after all—it lends even more credibility to the idea that the company is working on a car.

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Over the last several months, rumors have been flying fast and furious that Apple is working on a car. Even Apple CEO Tim Cook has stoked the flames, hinting that the company might be up to something in that market. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has called Apple’s plans to launch an electric car the worst-kept secret in Silicon Valley. The company is also reportedly hiring heavily from other car makers to help with its car-building efforts believed to be known internally as Project Titan.

Meanwhile, Apple hasn’t uttered a word about its plans and likely won’t for quite some time. Most estimates peg the company not getting its rumored car on roads until 2020.