Apple Patent Application Reveals Future of iPhones in Cars

Apple iPhone Car Patent Application

A new patent application revealed today by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is planning to enhance the capabilities of its iDevices to sync and share data with automobiles. The patent, which lists Apple SVP Scott Forstall among its inventors, describes how future vehicles and mobile devices could share data related to positioning, bearing, speed, and destination.

Using Bluetooth, WiFi, or a wired connection, a mobile device can connect to a compatible vehicle. The mobile device, illustrated by Apple's patent application as an iPhone, can send the car information on a user's address list, programmed destinations, text messages, and media while the vehicle will provide the mobile device with speed, acceleration, bearing, and any available GPS information from the vehicle's own system.

Cars and iPhones have employed GPS independently for some time, but Apple's patent application envisions a cooperation between the devices: if a GPS or other location signal cannot be established by the car or the mobile device, the mobile device's accelerometer, compass, and gyroscope can be used to track the vehicles location in relation to its last know position, a process referred to as "dead reckoning."

Dead reckoning can be used in conjunction with other location measurement techniques such as GPS, and used in cases where no satellite or terrestrial positioning signal information is available (whether the unavailability is due to interference in the operating environment or the lack or reception capabilities in the device).

Apple Vehicle Patent Application

The patent also describes a method for reconciling conflicting information. If the vehicle and the mobile device report conflicting positioning for the vehicle's location, or different coordinates for a user's destination, the mobile device will automatically calculate which information should take priority. This decision can be determined by the user when establishing the connection between the mobile device and the vehicle.

Apple also mentions that the functionality described in the patent is not limited to vehicles: "...other device types may take the place of the vehicle device in the present disclosure. For example, the mobile device may communicate with another mobile device, such as a like mobile device or another a handheld device such as a computer, PDA, GPS device, telephone, or the like."

The patent application was first filed May 14, 2012 and lists the above-mentioned Scott Forstall along with other Apple employees Gregory N. Christie, Robert E. Borchers, and Kevin Tiene as its inventors. The full patent with images can be viewed at Free Patents Online (PDF).