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Apple Car on the Way? iPhone-Based Key Is Latest Sign

The most compelling piece of evidence yet in favor of the long-rumored Apple Car is already in your pocket. According to a set of newly published patents, Apple is working on a system that will let you use your iPhone to unlock and start your car, adding more weight to reports that the Cupertino tech giant is getting set to launch its own automotive vehicle.

As discovered by Patently Apple, the iPhone maker was granted a patent yesterday (May 24) titled "Accessing Vehicles Using Portable Devices." The patent images show an iPhone-like device communicating wirelessly with a car, as well as an outline of the type of Bluetooth-based technology a vehicle would need to be controlled by your phone.

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While Apple was just now granted this patent, the original application dates all the way back to 2013 — long before rumored code names like "Project Titan" were being thrown around regularly. According to Patently Apple's earlier report, your iPhone may be able to eventually unlock your car's door and start its engine. The patent also mentions the ability to "transmit the vehicle access credential to a second portable device," which suggests that you may be able to make a virtual second set of keys for your spouse or family member.

When it comes to security, the patent mentions that you may be able to configure your car so that it can't be started without your phone present. Apple's patented system also includes the ability to prevent the car from being started during certain time periods, which could reduce the risk of overnight theft. There's even mention of a personalization system that would automatically adjust the car's seat, mirror, temperature and music based on who's in the vehicle, which sounds incredibly Iron Man-like.

This newly granted patent is just one of several recent pieces of evidence that make the purported Apple Car seem inevitable. The company recently invested a whopping $1 billion into Chinese ridesharing company Didi Chuxing, which could provide the phone maker with a wealth of critical data for developing a self-driving vehicle. A Wall Street Journal report from last September suggests that the Apple Car could hit the road by 2019.