Apple has applied for a patent (number 20170082649) dubbed “detecting controllers in vehicles using wearable devices” that would merge Apple Watch and CarPlay functionality. Compatible with iPhone 5 and later models, CarPlay provides a simplified way to use your iPhone interface on a car’s touch screen, giving users access to Siri voice controls, as well as Apple Maps, Apple Music, Phone, Messages, and a variety of third party apps.
The patent involves techniques for determining whose controlling the vehicle (which, hopefully, is the driver!). However, passenger may wish to enjoy full use of a wearable device (the Apple Watch, I assume), such as by interacting with applications, receiving notifications, or issuing commands by voice or touch.
In contrast, a user controlling a vehicle may not want, or may not be able, to safely interact with the wearable device in the same ways that a passenger could. For example, a vehicle controller may not be able to take his or her eyes off the road or hands off the steering wheel to interact with the device.
Because controllers and passengers may prefer or require different uses of the wearable device, Apple says it would be advantageous to detect automatically whether a user is controlling a vehicle and “adapt its behavior accordingly to better suit the user while the user is controlling a vehicle.”
Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.