Apple patents see iPhone as car-finder, auto starter


When your smartphone and automobile come up in conversation, too often the discussions center around texting while driving, or distracted driving. However, two patents submitted by Apple suggest the iPhone could become your car’s best friend – at least that’s the hope of the consumer tech giant.

The two patents filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office outline ways to replace your car’s key fob with the iPhone and a Bluetooth connection to remember your location in a crowded parking garage, as well as creating an intelligent car starter/theft prevention tool…

The first patent application appears to leverage Apple’s recent acquisition of WiFiSLAM, which produced a way to locate items while indoor.

Apple’s invention involves pairing your iPhone with your Bluetooth-enabled auto. That connection is then used to automatically – and that’s the key word – determine when your car slips into a parking spot. Once parked, the garage sends your iPhone data about the precise location.

Apple patent (car unlocking 004)

Finding your car then is just a simple case of using that location as a trail of breadcrumbs. While parking garages now make it simple to jot down the area (B4, for example), the hitch is remembering to make a note – this is the value of automatically receiving the data when you first arrive.

Apple patent (car unlocking 003)

Another related Apple patent application seeks to turn the iPhone into a Swiss Army knife of sorts for auto owners. That invention describes using a Bluetooth pairing between your smartphone and car that brings greater intelligence to the common tasks of remote door opening and starting.

Unlike current car key fobs where you simply push a button to open or start your auto, the smartphone would also allow you to set some parameters.

For instance, the patent could automatically unlock your car whenever it senses the phone within a certain distance. Another example could allow remote starting – but set the auto’s max speed to a crawl, perhaps slowing any potential car thief.

Apple patent (car unlocking 001)

Perhaps most intriguing for those of us parents who always considered giving our teens the remote starter is the potential to forbid use of car’s certain functions. A teen could turn on the heater in sub-zero winters, but not the radio, eliminating the mind-jangling ruckus before you’ve had a second cup of coffee.

The patent application appear to describe useful technology. Unclear is whether you want the iPhone to add yet more functionality. However, such a smart fob could spur development of the iWatch.

This could also open up greater licensing possibilities for Apple, providing the technology to car makers, who could them embed the ideas into their own products.