Apple CarPlay Could Unlock or Start Car as You Approach

Imagine being able to lock your car, turn it on, or even pop the trunk without ever touching it or your keys. A new patent secured by Apple shows CarPlay-like head units using geofencing technology and portable devices like iPhones to control a plethora of car functions. Obtained by AppleInsider, the patent was published by the USPTO today and describes in detail how iPhones in close proximity to a CarPlay-enabled vehicle could act like a remote control that could start and lock the car, among other things.

MORE: Apple CarPlay FAQ: Everything You Need to Know

According to the patent, the functionality would rely heavily on geofencing and Bluetooth LE. First, a car accessory like the CarPlay head unit that can connect to an iPhone deciphers if the car is parked and then sends that information to the iPhone in the form of a vCard or other digital communication via Bluetooth LE. Then, the iPhone creates a "virtual geofence" around the car, and can then monitor its location in relation to the parked car. Using those established locations - that of the iPhone and that of the parked car - the iPhone can then trigger certain actions based on its proximity to the car.

While remote control of a car's basic functions isn't new, Apple's technology would take it one step further. At a basic level, your iPhone could trigger your car doors to unlock when it senses you're approaching it in your driveway. But the patent describes not just one virtual geofence for the entire car, but the possibility of multiple geofences that could control different parts of the car, like the trunk, hood, and doors. For example, if you approach your car from behind, your iPhone could interact with the trunk's geofence and remotely unlock it, without unlocking the rest of the car.

This technology is an ambitious goal for Apple - CarPlay currently has limited availability and is only just hitting showrooms in new car models. There's also the question of how secure this system will be, and how Apple will make sure that only the owner's iPhone can remotely control their car. It will likely be a while before we see this technology integrated into CarPlay, and even longer before we see all the possible bugs worked out of the system.

Valentina Palladino

Valentina is Commerce Editor at Engadget and has covered consumer electronics for a number of publications including Tom's Guide, Wired, Laptop Mag and Ars Technica, with a particular focus on wearables, PCs and other mobile tech. 

  • Cons29
    my car key does something similar, it unfolds the side mirror then opens the puddle lamp so you could see near the door area.
    but it does not open the door automatically, which i think is not safe.

    and i do not know about high end cars, but what i know is that the hood is more mechanical so if you pop it open you have to push down to close it (not like the trunk where some can close it automatically). imagine if you go in front and the hood opens :)

    of course, they could have though of all these and makes thinks easier , as much as i don't like apple, they do have a knack for improving things
  • LizY
    Just another thing that will get hacked. Apple can't secure iCloud and there isn't a single Apple device that can't be hacked or exploited. What makes anyone think that having a device be able to control many safety aspects of your car as a good thing? Can you imagine driving down the freeway and someone turns your car off, opens your doors, or pops your trunk? Apple is evil and I don't want it in any part of my life. This company is starting to have too much influence over too many aspects of people's lives.
  • PiyushM
    okay so you parked your high end car in khan market, delhi. your iphone generates a geofence of your car. you leave. the car gets stolen.
    but the crooks have no idea how to access the car without setting off the alarm and SoS. you return to the "geofence" to find your car missing. meanwhile the iphone cleverly sends an unlock signal. the crooks get just enough time to get in and unplug the ECU.. TADAAAAAA
  • PiyushM
    Scenario 2-
    i park my car in a bylane in kamla nagar, delhi and go shopping. geofence constructed. and being a Apple loyalist i am, i use Apple maps. it takes a multi storeyed shop for my car's geofence. meanwhile another smalltime crook was trying to figure how to break into my car. doors unlock, engine starts..
  • surphninja
    What could go wrong?
  • coolitic
    Dude steals my phone, get's my car as a bonus.
  • Darkk
    Trust Apple with my car?? I'll pass.