Apple patent involves using an iPhone to unlock, even summon, your car

Apple has filed for a patent (number 20190039570) for a “system and method for vehicle authorization” that would allow you to summon a vehicle and unlock it with your iPhone.

In the patent filing, Apple notes that vehicles may be accessed and operated using a key or key fob. Typically, the key fob may provide a remote keyless entry system that provides access to the vehicle by unlocking the doors and additional functionality such as starting the engine. However, most conventional key fobs or keyless entry systems are single factor security systems that offer only a low level of security. 

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What’s more, Apple notes that some conventional remote keyless entry systems are vulnerable to security issues. For example, the vehicle is unable to identify the person carrying the key or key fob, so anyone with the key fob can operate the vehicle. Additionally, a traditional key or key fob is often large and inconvenient to carry, and easily misplaced, and thus can be stolen. 

Certain vehicles may provide a valet key that limits access to a storage area of the vehicle, e.g., a glove box or trunk, but otherwise allows full control of the vehicle. In short, a vehicle with a key or a key fob provides rudimentary security and would benefit from many improvements.

Here’s Apple’s summary of the patent: “A system includes a processor to transmit a first communication, receive a second communication in response to the first communication, determine an approach vector based on the first communication and the second communication, compare the approach vector with a known approach vector and transmit a request for authentication based on the comparison, receive a response to the request for authentication, and grant access to an asset based on the approach vector and the response to the request for authentication.”

Apple’s solution? Using an iPhone to unlock a vehicle. And even using the smartphone to “summon” a car to your location.

The latter could refer to an Apple-made car, but I believe it refers to summoning an Uber or Lyft ride. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, I don’t believe a full-full-fledged Apple Car will be built, but that Apple will use its automotive developments and work with other companies to incorporate them into their vehicles.

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.