When Apple revealed Digital Car Keys in July 2020, it was a super-cool new use for iPhone and Apple Watch, something to be filed under, “Is there anything the iPhone can’t do?”.
It meant that users of compatible cars could unlock their vehicles with their iPhone or Apple Watch, as well as starting the engine or sharing a key digitally via iMessage with a friend.
A recent patent suggested that extra features could be added, promising the capability to turn on the AC when you’re not in the car. Full details of that here.
But now, a new patent has come to light which could radically change how Digital Car Keys work. The new feature might stop you from using your car: a breathalyzer test.
The patent, called “Mobile Key User Interfaces”, is different from other Car Keys features. This one is designed to stop you from using your car.
The way it works is that it could assess your blood oxygen level and, according to the result, unlock your car. Or not.
This could be done by biometric criteria such as measuring from your breath whether you’re inebriated or not. And if you are, then it won’t let you unlock your car.
I mean, I can see the benefits. You’re going out for a jolly evening but you know that you don’t want to be tempted to drive if you’re not up to it. So, you tell the iPhone not to let you drive your car if, when you do the breathalyzer test, it decides you’ve had one too many.
The breath readings could either be done from the iPhone or a connected accessory (which seems more likely to me). Only when the breath reading says your alcohol level is safe will the car unlock.
Alternatively, it could offer you a different option, where you complete a challenge—a test of mental acuity, presumably, such as a series of math problems—and only if you pass will the car be unlocked for you to drive.
This is a clever feature, though it depends on you being someone with enough self-awareness to recognize that you need help in this matter.
This sounds like a clever way of Apple offering you an extra level of security, though it’s certainly very different from anything that has gone before.
With all patents, there’s no certainty when, or even if, it will come to reality. But it’s definitely intriguing.