Apple’s Car Key technology may allow unlocking a Tesla car in the near future. Both Apple and Tesla tend to plan several steps ahead. For example, Tesla includes far more advanced sensors in its cars than were initially made use of, which eased the transition to its advanced driver-assist features. Likewise, Apple built LiDAR into its iPad Pro before there was any compelling use for most owners, but the iphone-12 Pro revealed that it could be used to aid autofocus in low light conditions and its advanced AR capabilities are beginning to be made use of. Now, another technology included in Apple devices, ultra-wideband (UWB) may be getting closer to having its more practical uses explored.
Apple included a custom U1 chip in all iPhone 11 and iphone-12 models, the Apple Watch Series 6 and the HomePod mini to enable UWB communication between devices. Little was said about the purpose, but a developer demonstration video showed how an app could be created that allowed one device with a U1 chip to find another, giving both range and heading. A long-running rumor, backed by patent documents, suggests Apple will be releasing location beacons, similar to Tile trackers, but more advanced, that will make use of UWB communication. The rumors tend to place the announcement as coming soon, but it has been ‘coming soon’ for over a year now. Nevertheless, more may be seen of this product before the middle of 2021.
An FCC document surfaced briefly, before being removed, that suggests Tesla may be working on UWB technology for its vehicles, according to The Verge. The reason to include these sensors would be for the security and convenience of the owner. With a UWB sensor, the car could sense where the owner was located with an accuracy of 10-centimeters and unlock the doors automatically. As noted above, Apple included UWB in its iPhone in 2019, meaning there are millions of Apple devices with this capability. Apple is already using its Car Key technology with BMW and, according to Business Korea, Hyundai, the rumored Apple Car manufacturer, is working on a similar solution. Apple’s Car Key is set up in the Wallet app and works with both the iPhone XS or later and Apple Watch Series 5 or later, meaning the current implementation doesn’t require UWB, but it seems likely this will be added to a future version.
UWB Car Key Advantages
For those wondering how a UWB Apple Car Key might be different from the Phone Key feature available in the Tesla app. In truth, the difference may be largely transparent to the user. The purpose is for increased security. While Phone Key works by Bluetooth and near-field communication (NFC), the location of the phone is not known with a great degree of accuracy. Bluetooth can provide signal strength data only and NFC has a very short range. The danger of using Bluetooth alone is automatic unlocking when the owner is still some distance away and may not actually be approaching the vehicle. There is also the possibility of cloning a Bluetooth signal making this convenient unlocking method somewhat riskier than using a key or key card. Tesla takes precautions against this, now offering two-factor authentication of unlocking as an option, but it makes the design more complicated and more troublesome for owners. It’s notable that Samsung has included UWB capabilities into its latest Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy S21 smartphones.
By including UWB in a Tesla vehicle, the car could locate the owner with a higher degree of accuracy and detect whether they were approaching, leaving, or passing by. This would speed up unlocking, compared with the Bluetooth-based Phone Key and Apple’s current implementation of Car Key with the BMW, which requires the phone to be held near the door handle. Some have success simply standing near the handle with the phone in the front pocket. With UWB technology the car could potentially unlock as the owner approached and relock if the owner turned away. Another possibility is to reverse the perspective, and rather than the car locating the owner, the human may be trying to find the car. With UWB’s ability to give range and heading, the iPhone may be able to show an AR view with superimposed arrows pointing the way to the vehicle and even revealing the distance within a fairly large range. Apple hasn’t detailed the U1’s full capabilities, but UWB is capable of communicating from hundreds of meters away while still using minimal power.
While these capabilities are currently limited to a select few, it’s clear that in the future, smartphones and smartwatches may become the standard way to unlock vehicles. In the meantime, those lucky enough to own a Tesla may soon be able to unlock it with advanced UWB security and conveniences, using an iPhone 11, iphone-12 or Apple Watch Series 6.
Next: Unlock Your Car With Your iPhone – New Feature Coming To iOS
Source: The Verge
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