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In the future, you may be able to unlock your car just by looking at it. At least, if that car happens to have a newly patented Apple technology installed.
Apple was recently granted a patent for a biometric security authentication system aimed specifically at vehicles. The patent, “System and Method for Vehicle Authorization,” was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Feb. 7.
The patent lays out several types of authentication methods relating to mobile devices and vehicles. For one, a car could simply unlock when the proper smartphone enters a certain proximity of it.
But that’s not the most secure system, and the biometric-focused embodiments also listed in the patent are more interesting.
Essentially, a user could use Face ID or another biometric authentication device to unlock their vehicle.
- The patent isn’t explicitly clear on the exact implementation, but that facial recognition technology could be installed on a vehicle.
- Alternatively, a user could use Face ID on their smartphones to unlock a vehicle.
In either case, this adds another layer of security over key fobs. Even if a user’s smartphone is stolen, a malicious entity would need the user’s biometrics to unlock a vehicle. A car-mounted system would, obviously, only open for authorized individuals.
Benefits Beyond Security
Interestingly, the patent’s technology could even go beyond security. Being able to recognize users would lay the groundwork for a system that could detect an authorized driver approaching and tailor certain settings for that user’s specific preferences.
Each authorized user could have their own separate “profile” for the vehicle. When the car a particular user approaching, it could set individualized music, seat positioning, and climate control preferences automatically.
Too Good to Be True?
The patent has a lot of promise, but it’s worth noting that there are a few caveats that readers should keep in mind about it.
As we’ve seen with Face ID on Apple’s smartphones and tablets, the system is still vulnerable to coercive methods of unlocking. A law enforcement officer could, for example, force a user to unlock their vehicle with their face.
As far as when you may see a Face ID-equipped car, don’t hold your breath. Just because the tech is patented doesn’t mean we’ll see it on consumer vehicles anytime soon — or at all.
Similarly, while the USPTO published the patent a few days ago, Apple actually filed for it back in February 2017.
That’s important because Apple’s own car initiative, Project Titan, has seen its own series of roadblocks and changes over the year. Because of that, it’s not clear whether the patent covers abandoned technology or an actual active project over in Cupertino.
Still, most popular vehicles with keyless entry are vulnerable to digital attack. Adding another security factor to the mix, and perhaps Face ID specifically, could go a long way to helping users lock down their vehicles.