Apple has been notoriously secretive when it comes to discussing any car plans.
According to a Wall Street Journal report published in September, the company is working on an electric car that could be ready to ship as soon as 2019.
Also last month, the California Department of Motor Vehicles told Tech Insider that the company had recently met with Apple to discuss regulations for autonomous testing in the state.
But besides Apple being interested in electric, self-driving cars (just like a number of other tech companies) there’s not much else known about its car plans.
However, the tech giant has filed a number of car-related patents that may shed some light on what the company has in mind for its own vehicle.
It’s worth noting that as with most patents, there’s no guarantee that the company will make the technology a reality in the near future, but it’s still fun to see what the company is thinking about when it comes to developing car-related tech.
Apple filed a patent in 2009 for 'programmable tactile touchscreen displays and man machine interfaces for improved vehicle instrumentation and telematics.'
That's a mouthful, but the patent is calling for the same kind of technology automakers have been developing.
Take the extreme example of Nissan's IDS concept car, which is essentially a giant, driveable tablet. The car allows passengers and drivers to pull up a variety of functions using touchscreen technology on the display and even seats, from video gaming to conferencing calling.
Apple knows that touchscreen technology is vital for cars to be considered cutting edge nowadays. The patent notes that the display will be more than a touchscreen in that it will offer features 'that can be sensed in several tactile manners' (vibration?).
The patent also says researchers are looking into voice recognition so the display could take verbal commands (Hello, Siri!)
This patent filed in 2013 discusses hooking up a device wirelessly with an external vehicle display. It does mention that the display would be able to perform other functions, like playing music, but it mostly focuses on its navigation abilities.
The display would come with an animated map that would be easy to zoom in and out of using your fingers. It could also offer you a selection of predetermined routes based on trips you've taken before.
We've begun seeing this kind of technology with CarPlay.
A patent filed in 2012 outlines how drivers could use their phones to control their car. Functions can relate to 'vehicle climate control, navigation instructions, security functions, or music selection and output.'
Other uses can include using the phone to record your parked car's coordinates and where you are in relation to it.
This patent, which was filed in 2014 and published this week, acts as a continuation to the previous 2012 patent mentioned that lets you control your car with your phone.
Geofence technology will mean your phone will only communicate with the car when it's in a certain, defined proximity to it. When it is in that area, the phone can record the coordinates (and in some circumstances, the altitude) of where the car is parked. You can also start the car, warm the seats, and play music when you're in that geofence area.
Adding the geofence component to the 2012 patent ensures your phone battery won't get drained by constantly communicating with your car all day.
A patent filed in 2011 allows you to give another phone the ability to control your car, which would be perfect for families that share a vehicle.
It would also allow you to disable your car's engines, which would help with potential thefts.
Apple filed this patent in 2014 for a magnetic stand that could secure your tablet to your car's dashboard. That doesn't necessarily mean Apple cars will come with this technology built in, but it does show a desire to easily integrate Apple products in vehicles.
The patent notes that the 'tablet device' would have a sensor that could tell when it's secure to the stand, allowing it to 'automatically interact with the motor vehicle in a wireless mode.'
A patent filed in 2013 would give a mobile device the ability to record and later locate a parked car. Your phone would be able to sense if you have parked and then automatically record the location.
A similar patent also filed in 2o13 would allow your mobile device to find where you parked even even in a low-signal environment, like a parking deck.
This isn't a patent for in-car technology, but this patent filed in 2008 shows Apple is prioritising safe driving.
This 'lock-out mechanism' would prevent you from doing certain tasks, like texting, while driving.
The WSJ report mentioned earlier notes that Apple will roll out autonomous driving features in the future. Cook noted at the WSJD Live conference a few weeks ago that self-driving technology will be vital in the future.
'You see that autonomous driving becomes much more important in a huge way in the future,' he said. 'And so a lot of these major technologies in the car shift... from today's combustion engine centric focus.'
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