Can the iPhone Make Car Parking Headaches History?

Cars_640pxAlthough some of us may be too embarrassed to admit it, most people have probably had the experience of entering a parking structure with their keys in hand, before suddenly realizing that they have no idea where they parked their car. If you have not experienced this particular joy of modern living, just ask anyone who has and they will tell you how annoying and frustrating it can be to spend hours fruitlessly wandering through identical parking garage levels looking for your own vehicle. However, those days of car parking headaches may soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a Bluetooth-enabled parking assistant system proposed by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) in two patents recently published by the US Patent & Trademark Office.

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Both of Apple’s patents are based on using iPhone’s Bluetooth capabilities to interact with Bluetooth-enabled vehicles, as well as wireless location systems embedded in a parking structure. The first of Apple’s patents is titled “Method for Locating a Vehicle.” This patent describes a method for the iPhone to log your car’s location when you park in a structure with a wireless location system.

When you are ready to leave, your iPhone will interact with the embedded arrays in the parking structure to precisely guide you back to your parked vehicle. This guidance could be a map provided through either a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Interestingly enough, Apple recently acquired the startup company WiFiSLAM, which specializes in a technology that is able locate a mobile device user’s location indoors through the use of Wi-Fi signals.

Apple’s other Bluetooth-based car interaction patent is titled “Accessing a Vehicle Using Portable Devices.” Essentially this makes your iPhone perform many of the functions that are found on many NFC (near field communication) vehicle access devices. These remote functions can include starting the engine, rolling down the windows and unlocking the doors. However, instead of a generic NFC vehicle access device that could easily be used by anyone, your iPhone would require some form of secure authentication before it would allow a user to access a vehicle’s functions.

Finally, Apple also proposes a function that is sure to become the bane of teenage drivers everywhere if it is ever implemented. Apple proposes that multiple iPhones could have access to the same vehicle and that different levels of access could be customized for each user’s iPhone. These restrictions could include GPS-based geographic boundaries, speed limitations, and driving time limitations.

These recently discovered patents, along with Volkswagen’s announcement of an upcoming iBeetle, suggest that the Cupertino-based company is very interested in integrating Apple technology into the next generation of vehicles.

Apple closed up 2.16 percent, or $8.82, at $417.20 on Friday. The chart below shows Apple stock movement throughout the past week.

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