Apple has secured a new patent that suggests it may add more features and capabilities to its automotive software in the future. The patent, published by the USPTO today (via AppleInsider), describes a system in which an iPhone acts as an automatic car remote control when used with head units with CarPlay-like connectivity.
The patent describes how iOS devices might be used like remote starters and key fobs, but with additional automated actions made possible thanks to geo-fenced location capabilities. A user’s iPhone or iPad could be set to trigger actions like unlocking/locking the car, activating an alarm, starting the engine and activating climate control, or unlocking the trunk when a driver approaches the rear of the vehicle. Bluetooth LE is mentioned as a possible tech to be employed to accomplish this, and Apple could also use its iBeacon tech to work with proximity and positioning.
More ambitious elements of the patent include features that would monitor a user’s device over their cellular connection even when they’re away from the vehicle, and then report back to the connected head unit in the car to provide it with an intelligent profile of when to begin certain activities like warming up the car, even before proximity is locally detected. Features like starting the engine could also be locked out until a driver is actually in the driver’s seat, however, as a safety precaution.
The system would make sense if Apple wants to go further down the road (pun!) of vehicle integration for iOS devices, and many car makers are already offering companion apps for their vehicles that tie directly into their own proprietary systems. A universal, Apple-led effort would be better for consumers, though there are a lot of challenges, both technical and in terms of securing automaker buy-in, to overcome before we see anything like this go to market.