Apple Turning the iPhone into Your Car Key - Patent Applied

iphone car remote 2 photos
Photo: GM
Apple phone car key
The idea of controlling your car over from a distance came around with the invention of anti-theft alarms, with arming/disarming being done from a key fob. Time went by and the industry appears to develop plans in ditching the whole car key idea. Tesla’s newest software update will let you access and start their cars only with your smartphone and next in line seems to be Apple, coming up with a similar concept, but for regular cars.
The US Patent and Trademark Office recently granted Apple US patent No. 8,868,254 for “Accessory control with geo-fencing”. This can only translate into your iPhone being given the capability to control your car over a distance when connected to a CarPlay-like device.

To understand, Apple just launched the CarPlay infotainment system enhancement software which enables the driver access some of his/hers iPhone features straight from the car’s touchscreen using a simple and intuitive interface dictated by the latest iOS. No more ugly, laggy graphics, no more learning each automaker’s interface, no more struggle.

That was just the tip of the iceberg

Through it’s newest patent, Apple seems to plan further integration of iPhones into the owner-vehicle relationship via making keys a thing of the past. It’s not going to be just a simple app with a lock/unlock button on your phone, but more of an automated process.

The patent describes an intensive use of geo-location capabilities provided by the latest iPhones and iPads, which are able to monitor and access some car convenience functions based on geofences.

Think of that new iOS function that enables you to send a file from an iPhone to a Mac just by swiping the file in the direction of the other device. The two know about each other’s position and a similar data transfer will be used in the new car system.


A geofence is a virtual barrier which enables a user to set up triggers and do a certain action when a device enter/exists the boundaries. And that is what Apple’s idea is based on.

The vehicle accessory (a CarPlay like device) will transmit a signal, which can hold vCard data, to a mobile device (your iPhone for example). According to the patent description, “this signal can identify a current or future location of the vehicle. The mobile phone can generate one or more virtual geofences based at least in part on the location of the vehicle.”

In simple words, one or more virtual circular perimeters surrounding the whole car or just some elements will sense when you approach and according to your position can open the door or the trunk, disarm the alarm, turn on the “leave home” lights for you to see at night and such.

Further implementations to the in-car accessory could allow cellular data and track your phone from bigger distances. Then, by analyzing patterns or certain actions it could open up for even more possibilities, like turning on the engine to warm up the car, or guiding you towards the vehicle in a huge parking lot.

There’s no info on when this new technology will be implemented as the CarPlay barely made its entrance in the automotive world. Moreover, the company needs to study consumers’ reactions and whether automakers are willing to accept the new feature.

What we can tell you is that Google will most probably come with it’s own smartphone-key for the Android version of the system, namely the Android Auto.
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