In the early days of automobiles, we'd jam a key into the lock to unlock the door, and use that same key to turn on the ignition. Nowadays, most people press a button on a key fob or punch in a PIN combination. In some cases, a proximity sensor automatically unlocks the door. So what will tomorrow bring? Perhaps facial recognition technology, if an Apple patent is any indication.
Maybe one day Apple will build its own self-driving automobile, as has been rumored for a long time now, and debut a bunch of fancy new technologies. Or maybe not. Either way, there is a patent that Apple filed a little over two years ago and was just recently published that describes unlocking a vehicle through a mobile biometric authentication system.
Apple's reasoning is that key fobs are not all that secure, with some of them being vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks.
"Vehicles may be accessed and operated using a key or key fob. Typically, the key fob may provide a remote keyless entry system that provides access to the vehicle by unlocking the doors and additional functionality such as starting the engine. However, most conventional key fobs or keyless entry systems are single factor security systems that offer only a low level of security," Apple explains.
"Moreover, some conventional remote keyless entry systems are vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks and other security issues. For example, the vehicle is unable to identify the person carrying the key or key fob, so anyone with the key fob can operate the vehicle," Apple continues.
Apple's patent essentially describes a Face ID mechanism for cars. This would not consist of a display on the car itself, but entails a user's mobile device (likely an iPhone) acting as the key fob. Once the phone verifies a person's identify, it would send a signal to unlock the car.
One advantage of this method is that the car could store different profiles for multiple drivers. For example, if dad approaches and unlocks the car through this method, the vehicle could adjust his seat and mirrors to his preference, and turn on the jazz station. Likewise, when junior borrows the car, it could tilt the seat back—because kids find that comfortable for some reason—and flip the radio to an indie rock station, or whatever he or she likes.
It's an interesting concept, and one that could tie into the company's autonomous vehicle efforts. That's assuming Apple is still going in that direction. Apple recently made some significant cuts to its self-driving vehicle division as part of a major restructuring effort, though insists it is still interested in autonomous systems.