The Day my Wife’s Car Answered my iPhone

| John Martellaro's Blog

My wife pulled into the garage and turned off the car. As she was geting the groceries out of the back seat, the car started talking to her. She was taken aback. Don't believe anything you read today. Except this.

So. I have a story to tell you.

Back in February, with a car lease soon to expire this summer, the dealer made my wife an offer she couldn't refuse. Cancel the lease early, get a new 2013 model, virtually the same car, but actually a much better car, better color, and no money due at signing. Just continue to pay the regular monthly lease payment ($5 more) for three more years. And drive away in a new car.

She couldn't turn that down.

This new car has a Bluetooth capability. Pair your smartphone to the car, and whenever it's in the car, the car will answer an incoming call. There's a microphone and, of course, a fabulous speaker system for hands free calling.

At the dealership in February, the service tech showed us how to do that with the cool new GUI on the instrument panel. My iPhone was in my belt holster, handy, so we used it. It worked very nicely.

Fast forward a month.

One afternoon in late March, I had been expecting a call from our local veterinarian. Then, about 4:45 pm, my wife arrives home from work with groceries, pulls into the garage. And then, a fatal (or serendipitous) series of events kicks in, depending on how you look at it.

  1. My iPhone 5 has Bluetooth turned on. (Shame on me.)
  2. The new car, now in the garage -- which shares a wall with my office -- now "sees" my iPhone via Bluetooth.
  3. Even though the car has been turned off, the electronic key in my wife's purse is maintaining that wireless, encrypted link. That means the car's electronics are still enabled.
  4. At that very moment, the vet calls my iPhone.

Do you see it coming?

One ringy dingy.

All of a sudden, my wife, collecting the groceries, hears someone talking out of the car's speaker system.

"Hello? Hello? John?"

Needless to say my wife is startled.

Back in my office, I see the display of my iPhone change to an incoming call, but I can't answer.

Something is very wrong.

The vet tries again and calls back. My wife is now headed into the house with a bag of groceries, and the car is still talking to her. She is somewhat confused.

Then she gets it. Her car is too smart. A confluence of events, by distance and technology, had kicked in.

She walked into the kitchen. "John, my car answered your iPhone!"

I smile. Life with a geek.


What's interesting about this is what one might call a cascade failure. An unexpected series occurrences, caused by technology, combine to produce a new, unexpected event. A failure of sorts for us, but great success for the technology. My wife and I couldn't stop laughing.

That really happend. It may well be the most believable thing you'll read today.


Teaser image via Shutterstock.

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There’s an obvious flaw in that car’s UI.

Answering the call (i.e. “picking up” the phone) should be a decision left to the driver (or whoever has the keys). It is poor design for the car to decide, on its own, to answer the call. In the same scenario with BMW, the phone will ring, and ring. But the car will not answer until the driver (or passenger) confirms acceptance.

And if you’re in or near the car but the engine is off, you get the choice of whether to pick up on the car’s system, or with the phone itself.


I don’t have a fancy car, but when I got my 5, I got a bluetooth adapter for the car. Works rather well, actually. I noticed that if I use the adapter (big blue-outlined button attached with a small cable snaking back to my 12 volt plug that connects to the aux port) to answer the phone, it answers the phone and I use the button as a microphone and stereo as speakers, and all is good. If I (instinctively) answer with the phone, then it gives me the option of changing sources, but the phone is still doing the talking.

Lesson: don’t let the car auto-answer.

Lee Dronick

My wife has a 3rd party BlueTooth device in the car, the kind you clip onto the sun visor. When she exits the vehicle it disconnects even when not switched off. However, if the car is parked within range of her iPhone and someone enters the car then it connects; I am guessing that there is some sort of proximity sensor. Other than that little quirk she loves the device.


Bluetooth in my car and the iPhone works amazingly well. Just a pity I can’t activate (without touching the phone) Siri while driving.

Jay Hill

“hands free driving”?  Shouldn’t that be “hands free calling while driving” or just “hands free calling”?

Funny story tho’.

John Martellaro

Jay:  ::blush::  fixed.

Paul Goodwin

Hahaha John. That stuff happens here too. I’m out in the wife’s car, pull into the garage and a phone conversation starts blaring over the car audio. My wife’s inside the house on her iPhone on a business call, and the car just goes ahead and takes over. LOL the first time it happened I had no clue what was going on for a minute, and just started saying hello- right in the middle of her business call. Jaheezus.

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