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Apple Wants to Replace Your Car Key Fob with an iPhone

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A new Apple patent application proposes using an iPhone or even an Apple Watch as a vehicle’s key fob. Many automakers offer the ability to lock and unlock your vehicle using a smartphone, but Apple’s idea contains a crucial difference.

With a service like General Motors’ OnStar, your phone doesn’t give a direct command to your vehicle. Instead, it uses the myChevrolet, myBuick, or myGMC app to communicate via wireless internet with OnStar. Then, OnStar communicates instructions securely to your vehicle.

The system Apple is developing would directly communicate with your vehicle using magnetic antennas and radio frequency antennas. It’s essentially a variation on proximity technology, which allows a car to be unlocked when the key fob is detected nearby. Except in this case, you wouldn’t need the fob anymore, making one less thing to forget when you walk out the door!

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Hackers have been able to access fobs that use proximity technology, but Apple’s version would probably be locked down tighter. The antenna system would also be able to determine whether the phone is in the car. That technology could potentially keep the doors from locking if the phone is inside and keeping the car from starting if the phone is outside.

Although this approach sounds promising, it also leads to some unanswered questions. What if you lose your phone? What if you drop and break it? Or what if the battery dies while you’re inside the grocery store? Presumably you’d need some sort of backup system to keep from being locked out of your car while your battery recharges or Apple mails you a replacement phone.

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News Sources: GM Authority, Apple Insider