The idea of using your smartphone as a car key isn’t necessarily new anymore. Plenty of car companies have apps that allow you to unlock your car using a smartphone – Audi and Volvo come to the top of my mind – and Apple has a plan to do the same. The only difference, of course, between Audi/Volvo and Apple is that the latter doesn’t have a car… yet. A new invention could be yet another indication Apple really is building a car, or a suggestion that future versions of iOS might let you unlock your car.
The patent, simply named “Accessing a vehicle using portable devices,” was granted to Apple on Tuesday. It describes “A primary portable device [that] can access a vehicle by transmitting an activation message including a vehicle access credential to the vehicle. The primary portable device can additionally enable a secondary portable device to access the vehicle by transmitting the vehicle access credential to the secondary portable device. The connections between the portable device, secondary portable device, and vehicle can be based on a short-range wireless protocol, such as Bluetooth or Bluetooth LE.”
That abstractly suggests that one user might be able to use his or her iPhone to unlock a car, and then, should he or she need to share the key with a friend, send the access code to another person, who will also be able to access the car. This, too, already exists in some fashion. Volvo’s “On Call” application acts as a key and can be used among family and friends to share access to a single car.
We’re curious to see what Apple ends up doing with this patent. It may just use it for licensing, or maybe it’ll end up in the oft-rumored Apple Car.