We find it very amusing that Apple whose recent iOS 8-8.2 update fried Bluetooth connections with in-car infotainment systems filed a patent that allows an iPhone to act as a car remote control. The remote functions will be connected to head units or “accessory devices” with a possible form of communication being Bluetooth.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple U.S. Patent No. 8,868,254 for “Accessory control with geo-fencing” that turns an iPhone into an advanced car remote when paired with a CarPlay-like “accessory” device.
Upon determining that a location-based criterion has been satisfied, the mobile device can transmit a second signal to the vehicle accessory indicating that a function of the vehicle is to be controlled. For example, the mobile device can activate or de-activate vehicle features (eg. door locking, vehicle defrosting) in a manner that capitalizes on efficient signal transmission.
The patent suggests Bluetooth as a possible technology to be used to accomplish the connection. Yes, Bluetooth, the same Bluetooth that is causing iPhone 6 or iPhone 5 (iOS 8.1) owners to say that they will never buy an iPhone again.
The patent includes features that monitor the iPhone’s owner with an intelligent profile of activities such as warming up the car, when the device is near the vehicle. For safety, a driver could be locked out if the driver is not in the driver’s seat.
The system puts an invisible fence around the car and then controls can be sent. For example when the driver leaves a the car and approaches the outer fence, a signal is sent to lock the car.
A geo-fence boundary may be set for a car door or for the trunk. When the iPhone owner is near the rear of the car, a signal is sent to open the trunk.
This function is already accomplished with a key fob with Hyundai’s Smart Trunk. The Smart Trunk open feature uses the same sensor as the Proximity Key. Sonata’s proximity key system communicates with the FOB by the frequency of Radio Frequency (315/433Mhz) and Low Frequency (125Khz). The sensor located on the trunk release detects if the FOB is within 36-inches (behind the vehicle) and pops-open the trunk if detected for three seconds.
Who and how car door trunks are opened is a contention for car makers. The latest luxury Lexus S series has the added function of being able to open the trunk when all the doors are unlocked without a fob. The problem with key fob opening of the trunk is that the person with the fob has to be outside the car. Late model cars have a pull latch that opens the trunk from inside the car. Luxury car owners want the doors or trunks opened for them when and how they want them opened.
Yesterday, during an interview for another topic, we learned that Apple does not let the car makers know what Apple is planning or doing. This creates an adversarial relationship such as the case with the latest Bluetooth snafu. Some Apple techs were telling car owners to go to their dealer for an update. While some car makers were blaming Apple. It’s the Silicon Valley versus Detroit old school. In Detroit, every thing is tested over and over again to make sure it works. In the case of Bluetooth and iOS 8.0-8.1, it appears there was little testing with actual devices for in-car infotainment systems.
It appears in order for the geo-fencing to work there has to be an accessory device in the car. What car maker would allow a device in their cars when Apple won’t let them know what Apple is doing? Once the device is manufactured as part to the car, the car maker is liable for law suits and recalls. If driving down the highway someone hacks a car using an iPhone and the doors and trunk opens spilling groceries on the road, the car maker will be liable.
In general, auto-remote apps work by the app sending a data signal to the car maker’s system such as OnStar in the case with GM vehicles. There is a 2G, 3G or 4G modem in the car that receives the signal and then sends it to the computers onboard the vehicle to accomplish the function of trunk opening, remote start or door opening. The most successful app is the GM OnStar RmoteLink app during the Polar Vortex in the winter of 2014 around 20,000 GM car owners were using the OnStar RemoteLink app start feature, every hour. GM is working on a wearable smartwatch OnStar RemoteLink app.
The BMW remote features have very poor ratings from app stores and has garnered complaints from users. BMW’s web/mobile portal went down all over Europe in July.
Apple’s advanced car remote patent was first filed for in June 2012 and credits Sylvain Louboutin as its inventor.