Improved keyless entry system could replace car key fob with iPhone

Posted:
in iPhone
Apple wants iPhone owners to be able to use their mobile devices as alternatives to a keyless entry system for their car, with a proposal that would let users unlock and start a vehicle simply by bringing their mobile device with them to the driving seat.




The patent application for "Enhanced automotive passive entry," published on Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, describes ways that could be used to improve upon the key fob used for keyless entry functions found in many vehicles. Such systems allow for a car to be unlocked when the key fob is near to the vehicle, and to enable drivers to start the vehicle by pushing a button, instead of inserting a key and turning it.

Apple's application also suggests this style of functionality could be applied to a mobile device other than a key fob, such as an iPhone or a wearable device like an Apple Watch. The filing even notes that key fobs can be "bulky and be an additional item that a user must carry," further suggesting the use of an iPhone or another mobile device would be ideal, reducing the amount of items the driver would need to possess on a daily basis.

According to the filing, the existing system using "magnetic signals emitted from magnetic antennas" in the car are measured by the vehicle to determine range and position. This could be improved, as the magnetic fields are short range, and that current techniques used for the driving feature are susceptible to hacking, allowing access to the inside of the vehicle and potential theft of the vehicle itself.




Apple proposes the use of both magnetic antennas and radio frequency antennas to determine range, including analyzing the RF received signal strength indicator, time-f-flight value, and other signal properties. This would allow for an unlocking system to detect at a far longer range than available at present.

The suggested system would also be capable of locating the device within the vehicle cabin, with its internal position potentially enabling specific features to work. Potentially, this could mean a car will be unlocked if the device is inside, but the engine won't start until it is located at the front or in a predetermined area.

To save from adding extra components, the magnetic antennas could also be used for RF signals. A similar efficiency idea could be had with mobile devices, with the NFC antenna potentially reusable as a magnetic antenna for this purpose while the use of three-dimensional magnetic antennas in the vehicle would limit the need for extra magnetic antennas to be added to mobile devices.

Apple files a large number of patent applications every week, and while the publication by the USPTO confirms the concepts are being considered by Apple, it isn't a guarantee the idea will appear in a future consumer device.

There are, however, plans to implement a new "digital key" for vehicles that would allow an iPhone or other NFC-enabled devices to unlock or start the vehicle. The Car Connectivity Consortium, which counts Apple among its charter members, published the Digital Key Release 1.0 specification in June, advising on how such a smartphone-based digital key would function.

Apple has also considered the possibility of using the iPhones as a security token in other ways. A recent patent application describes how an iPhone or another device could securely store credentials, such as from a passport, and then could be used as an alternative credential for authorities to accept.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 26
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,275member
    Yes please. The only reason I have to bring anything other than my watch & phone into a store is my damn car key fob. 
    anton zuykovBtheBwatto_cobraJaiOh81jony0
  • Reply 2 of 26
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,643member
    keep it simple, stupid. Just keep a simple key, it is now bad enough you can not get into some cars if you have dead battery or you need to go through special procedures to get in. I like turning the key and the door opens, no drama or above average intelligence required.

    I am have engineering background and worked on cars since I was 16. Car have gotten so complicated even the service tech as they are call today can not even work on the cars. I had a problem with my BMW, it was in the shop 5 weeks, it took 3 visits from the BMW field engineer to finally figure out what was wrong. The Service tech had no clue. There will not be enough engineers to go around to solve the litany of issues more complexity will create.

    edited August 2018 aylkcroprmarklarkols
  • Reply 3 of 26
    The Bluetooth solution that Tesla uses today for the Model 3 works 100% of the time for me with my iPhone. However, I've read stories about it being unreliable for other people. So I welcome a better and smarter solution than simply relying on Bluetooth.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 26
    GG1GG1 Posts: 269member
    My co-worker's new Tesla Model 3 already does this (with the Tesla app running on his iPhone). He approaches the car (with phone in pocket), the car unlocks and turns "on." When he leaves the car, he just closes the door and walks away. At a certain distance, the car turns "off,", locks the doors, and folds in the sideview mirrors.

    The car comes with no key fob, but Tesla are rumored to be making one due to many people asking for one. Other than the app, he has an RFID card (credit card size) that he can hold up to the B-pillar to open the driver's side door only. I'm not sure if there is a pure mechanical way (metal key) to gain entry. There is a mechanical way to open the door from the inside.

    I'm not sure if Tesla are using Bluetooth, NFC, or a combination of both.

    Apple's patent above mentions magnetic fields, so that makes me think that the embedded Qi charging coils in the iPhone X may be doing double duty (charging and keyless entry verification).

    Edit: Henshaw says only Bluetooth is used. Makes sense, as the majority of phones have Bluetooth but not all have NFC.
    edited August 2018 watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 26
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,643member
    GG1 said:
    My co-worker's new Tesla Model 3 already does this (with the Tesla app running on his iPhone). He approaches the car (with phone in pocket), the car unlocks and turns "on." When he leaves the car, he just closes the door and walks away. At a certain distance, the car turns "off,", locks the doors, and folds in the sideview mirrors.

    The car comes with no key fob, but Tesla are rumored to be making one due to many people asking for one. Other than the app, he has an RFID card (credit card size) that he can hold up to the B-pillar to open the driver's side door only. I'm not sure if there is a pure mechanical way (metal key) to gain entry. There is a mechanical way to open the door from the inside.

    I'm not sure if Tesla are using Bluetooth, NFC, or a combination of both.

    Apple's patent above mentions magnetic fields, so that makes me think that the embedded Qi charging coils in the iPhone X may be doing double duty (charging and keyless entry verification).

    Edit: Henshaw says only Bluetooth is used. Makes sense, as the majority of phones have Bluetooth but not all have NFC.

    I believe Tesla and other car companies like Volvo who offer this feature are actually send data to the car over the cellular network. A co-worker has a Volvo with this feature and he could use it for 6 month then Volvo turn it off and wanted him to pay a subscription to have the ability to unlock the car from the phone as well as remote start and other features like check fuel level. This all could be done from any where you and the car had cell service.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 26
    Don't confuse the Key function with Remote functions. Things like checking the inside temp or opening the sun roof will use the cellular network and will fail if there is no cellular connection. Bluetooth is quick and local, so unlock the door, pop the frunk, things you should be able to do even if you are in a canyon w/o any cellular connection. Cannot believe the author didn't mention Tesla as all of the comments are about it.
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 26
    BtheBBtheB Posts: 3member
    maestro64 said:
    keep it simple, stupid. Just keep a simple key, it is now bad enough you can not get into some cars if you have dead battery or you need to go through special procedures to get in. I like turning the key and the door opens, no drama or above average intelligence required.

    I am have engineering background and worked on cars since I was 16. Car have gotten so complicated even the service tech as they are call today can not even work on the cars. I had a problem with my BMW, it was in the shop 5 weeks, it took 3 visits from the BMW field engineer to finally figure out what was wrong. The Service tech had no clue. There will not be enough engineers to go around to solve the litany of issues more complexity will create.

    I stopped reading when I read "I have a problem with my BMW..."  :)
    Maybe try a Lexus next time.
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 8 of 26
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 8,304member
    maestro64 said:
    keep it simple, stupid. Just keep a simple key, it is now bad enough you can not get into some cars if you have dead battery or you need to go through special procedures to get in. I like turning the key and the door opens, no drama or above average intelligence required.

    I am have engineering background and worked on cars since I was 16. Car have gotten so complicated even the service tech as they are call today can not even work on the cars. I had a problem with my BMW, it was in the shop 5 weeks, it took 3 visits from the BMW field engineer to finally figure out what was wrong. The Service tech had no clue. There will not be enough engineers to go around to solve the litany of issues more complexity will create.

    Nah, I like the features. As for repair people, just sounds like a job growth opportunity. Blame BMW for not hiring more “jobs, jobs, jobs”. Isn’t that the rallying cry?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 26
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 2,162member
    maestro64 said:
    GG1 said:
    My co-worker's new Tesla Model 3 already does this (with the Tesla app running on his iPhone). He approaches the car (with phone in pocket), the car unlocks and turns "on." When he leaves the car, he just closes the door and walks away. At a certain distance, the car turns "off,", locks the doors, and folds in the sideview mirrors.

    The car comes with no key fob, but Tesla are rumored to be making one due to many people asking for one. Other than the app, he has an RFID card (credit card size) that he can hold up to the B-pillar to open the driver's side door only. I'm not sure if there is a pure mechanical way (metal key) to gain entry. There is a mechanical way to open the door from the inside.

    I'm not sure if Tesla are using Bluetooth, NFC, or a combination of both.

    Apple's patent above mentions magnetic fields, so that makes me think that the embedded Qi charging coils in the iPhone X may be doing double duty (charging and keyless entry verification).

    Edit: Henshaw says only Bluetooth is used. Makes sense, as the majority of phones have Bluetooth but not all have NFC.

    I believe Tesla and other car companies like Volvo who offer this feature are actually send data to the car over the cellular network. A co-worker has a Volvo with this feature and he could use it for 6 month then Volvo turn it off and wanted him to pay a subscription to have the ability to unlock the car from the phone as well as remote start and other features like check fuel level. This all could be done from any where you and the car had cell service.
    That's how it works with my Ford. I use the FordPass app and I can see current the fuel level, tire pressure, and oil life. I can lock/unlock and remote start the vehicle from anywhere (I can't use remote start feature since my car is stick). It also shows where my car is. The data is sent through cellular network since my Ford has a built in LTE modem. 
    edited August 2018 watto_cobradamn_its_hot
  • Reply 10 of 26
    BtheB said:
    maestro64 said:
    keep it simple, stupid. Just keep a simple key, it is now bad enough you can not get into some cars if you have dead battery or you need to go through special procedures to get in. I like turning the key and the door opens, no drama or above average intelligence required.

    I am have engineering background and worked on cars since I was 16. Car have gotten so complicated even the service tech as they are call today can not even work on the cars. I had a problem with my BMW, it was in the shop 5 weeks, it took 3 visits from the BMW field engineer to finally figure out what was wrong. The Service tech had no clue. There will not be enough engineers to go around to solve the litany of issues more complexity will create.

    I stopped reading when I read "I have a problem with my BMW..."  :)
    Maybe try a Lexus next time.
    I didn't last that long. I stopped at "Just keep a simple key".
  • Reply 11 of 26
    Awesome! iPhone thieves will now get a free car as a bonus! And if they ask Siri to navigate home they can have all my stuff too.

    It currently takes three different thieves to pull this off, but thanks to technological progress that will soon be accomplished by just one.
  • Reply 12 of 26
    Another 'device' I won't have to carry or lose! :) 

    Imagine this on your AppleWatch! :)
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 26
    Did I recently read Tesla and Volvo have the most software issues among all the car companies.

    I stayed away from Ford b/c of MicroSoft's iSync. Ugh!

    Stayed away from Tesla b/c it's based on Android.

    Will stay away from BMW b/c it's charging $300/yr. for CarPlay.

    Currently driving a 2013 Prius C w/ 50+ miles per gallon.

    Considered the Leaf, but 70 mile range was a non-starter.

    When Apple comes out w/ their new Apple Car, I'm all in! :) The Apple Car will have all my Podcasts and music automatically downloaded. I won't have to pull my iPhone out of my pocket and fiddle with it every time I get in the car! Ugh!

    It will have a 300+ mile range. It will have the best suspension, best glass, best seats, best tires, best batteries, best SW!

    It will have no buttons! Getting in a car today is like starting your home stereo system in 1981 where you had a eight buttons to press! :)
    edited August 2018 watto_cobraJaiOh81
  • Reply 14 of 26
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,789member
    BtheB said:
    I stopped reading when I read "I have a problem with my BMW..."  :)
    Maybe try a Lexus next time.
    I been driving BMW for a number of years. I just lease them for three years because that is the length of the free service program. Other than one minor recall I have't had many issues aside from when I didn't drive it for two months and the battery was almost dead. Cars these days are using the internet all the time even when they are turned off so you need to drive them to keep the battery charged.

    So when I was traveling for the two months, I was at a cafe in the Caribbean and there were two German women sitting at the next table. I got to talking with them and I mentioned I always drive BMWs. So one of them said which model do you have? How do you like it, etc? Is there anything you don't like about it? I thought that was a strange question but I responded that there were a couple design considerations that I thought could be improved. She said like what? Anyway, it turned out that she was an engineer for BMW so I told her the few things that I thought could be better and she said she would pass that along to the appropriate departments. Her expertise was in acoustics which I have to say is quite good in BMWs. They are quiet. Very minimal road noise and the audio equipment is also excellent.

    But back on topic: Personally I don't think I would use an iPhone app to unlock my car. The key fob works fine for me. I also need the mechanical key and the key fob for parking at a valet and securing the trunk. I'm not sure how that would work with just an iPhone.
  • Reply 15 of 26
    maestro64 said:
    keep it simple, stupid. Just keep a simple key, it is now bad enough you can not get into some cars if you have dead battery or you need to go through special procedures to get in. I like turning the key and the door opens, no drama or above average intelligence required.

    I am have engineering background and worked on cars since I was 16. Car have gotten so complicated even the service tech as they are call today can not even work on the cars. I had a problem with my BMW, it was in the shop 5 weeks, it took 3 visits from the BMW field engineer to finally figure out what was wrong. The Service tech had no clue. There will not be enough engineers to go around to solve the litany of issues more complexity will create.



    I have EXTENSIVE knowledge of BMW and their systems. I'm curious what specific issue did you have that took them that long to figure out? What vehicle was this on?

    You'd be surprised how much training BMW technicians get in the fields of electrical, electronic, bus systems/networks and using tools to check them (like oscilloscopes).

    BMW "field engineers" (actually RTMs  for Regional Technical Managers) are typically former technicians themselves. The actual engineers are usually with the companies that provide components (for example, those that develop transmissions or other assemblies for BMW). These people don't make trips to dealers - that's what RTM's do. Basically, the person who came to look at your vehicle was just another technician, albeit with more experience.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 26
    78Bandit78Bandit Posts: 232member
    This needs to be a standard, not a patent.  If using a device as a key replacement is ever going to succeed it will have to be something that is freely available to all device manufacturers.  There is no reason such functionality could not be built into something like a Fitbit or anything else a person would carry around with them all the time.

    I don't see car manufacturers building something as basic as this into their vehicles if every device manufacturer has to use a different method.
  • Reply 17 of 26
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,643member
    BtheB said:
    maestro64 said:
    keep it simple, stupid. Just keep a simple key, it is now bad enough you can not get into some cars if you have dead battery or you need to go through special procedures to get in. I like turning the key and the door opens, no drama or above average intelligence required.

    I am have engineering background and worked on cars since I was 16. Car have gotten so complicated even the service tech as they are call today can not even work on the cars. I had a problem with my BMW, it was in the shop 5 weeks, it took 3 visits from the BMW field engineer to finally figure out what was wrong. The Service tech had no clue. There will not be enough engineers to go around to solve the litany of issues more complexity will create.

    I stopped reading when I read "I have a problem with my BMW..."  :)
    Maybe try a Lexus next time.
    Lexus, sucks if you like something that drives like land barge. Lexus isolates you from the road. Can not compare to BMW from performance stand point.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 26
    maestro64 said:
    keep it simple, stupid. Just keep a simple key, it is now bad enough you can not get into some cars if you have dead battery or you need to go through special procedures to get in.... ...Car have gotten so complicated even the service tech as they are call today can not even work on the cars. I had a problem with my BMW, it was in the shop 5 weeks, it took 3 visits from the BMW field engineer to finally figure out what was wrong. The Service tech had no clue. There will not be enough engineers to go around to solve the litany of issues more complexity will create.



    I think the tech in cars is here to stay, although the 5 or more so called computers seems to be a bit much. The manufacturers claim this is how they get the better fuel consumption/higher performance (if you can believe they are not cheating on the benchmarks). I hope after being caught they will now play it straight and go to enhancing the real performance. As far as the techs go I rather like the fact that the techs (with proper training) are a better educated group of professionals. It always seems to be painful when switching from 1 std to another, especially with the overlap of the two. With generally higher quality from auto manufacturers in theory it should get better. The fossil fuel driven engines of the past are on the downhill side. As for your BMW don't you have some kind of "lemon law" where you live?
  • Reply 19 of 26
    plovellplovell Posts: 801member
    Will stay away from BMW b/c it's charging $300/yr. for CarPlay.
    Not accurate. The charge of $300 is a one-time fee for 2018 and earlier cars. The subscription fee ($80 ? - I'm not certain) is for 2019 and later.
  • Reply 20 of 26
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,643member
    maestro64 said:
    keep it simple, stupid. Just keep a simple key, it is now bad enough you can not get into some cars if you have dead battery or you need to go through special procedures to get in. I like turning the key and the door opens, no drama or above average intelligence required.

    I am have engineering background and worked on cars since I was 16. Car have gotten so complicated even the service tech as they are call today can not even work on the cars. I had a problem with my BMW, it was in the shop 5 weeks, it took 3 visits from the BMW field engineer to finally figure out what was wrong. The Service tech had no clue. There will not be enough engineers to go around to solve the litany of issues more complexity will create.



    I have EXTENSIVE knowledge of BMW and their systems. I'm curious what specific issue did you have that took them that long to figure out? What vehicle was this on?

    You'd be surprised how much training BMW technicians get in the fields of electrical, electronic, bus systems/networks and using tools to check them (like oscilloscopes).

    BMW "field engineers" (actually RTMs  for Regional Technical Managers) are typically former technicians themselves. The actual engineers are usually with the companies that provide components (for example, those that develop transmissions or other assemblies for BMW). These people don't make trips to dealers - that's what RTM's do. Basically, the person who came to look at your vehicle was just another technician, albeit with more experience.
    I too know lots about BMW these days since I do most all my own work. I was warned when you buy a performance car you have to be prepared to deal with maintenance and the cost associated with it. I have 335I and its a challenging car to own next to an M-car. The problem I had was the car keep going into limp mode (cripple performance), They originally thought it was the VANOS system, then plug coils, turbo issues, reprogram the ECU a couple of times and the list went on. They never told be what they finally did to fix the problem. But I know they not replace any parts on the engine. I conclude from this there was some sort of program error, i forced the car into and they could not get it out of.

    Yes the RTM was brought in on the case, and I was told he though his hands up and they then began working with the engineers in Germany and final they send an engineer from BMWNA to the dealer to work on the car. This is what the dealer said happen, I really did not care at the time since I had a brand new loaner while they figure it out. They seem to be extremely interested in looking at my care and figure out what was going on. Considering when happen here, I had a previous issue when they updated ECU and it really messed with the performance of the car which required another update.
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