Apple Wants to Own the Way You Unlock Your Car (AAPL)

Apple has scaled down on its ambitions to build a car. For now, the tech giant has another innovative goal – replacing your car keys.

Apple AAPL

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is said to have big automotive ambitions with its 55 patented vehicle technologies. Since 2014, the company has been mysteriously conceptualizing an electric, self-driving car. However, no one outside Cupertino knows any specifics in terms of what Apple has in mind.

Before the rumors of ‘Project Titan’, Apple’s car initiative, came out, the company already had plans of a futuristic iPhone system that allows users to open car doors, start- turn off the cars’s engine at specific times, customize car settings, and a lot more. These features that were envisioned went beyond what was to be conceived in Apple’s infotainment system, CarPlay.

In fact, Apple was recently granted several automobile patents by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which seem to prove that there is indeed a Project Titan. But is there? According to the grapevine, the tech company is backing away from building a car, leaving hundreds unemployed. While Apple is now focusing its efforts on building a self-driving software, the Project Titan team is re-organizing. In fact, The New York Times reported that the hundreds of layoffs were part of a reboot process.

Despite Apple’s new challenges, they remain a threat to seasoned car manufacturers, the latter already beefing up their software capabilities. They know better than to allow tech companies to acquire the lucrative software aspect of new automobiles. However, Apple may struggle with automotive suppliers. They may have wide contacts and often exclusive rights to certain suppliers of smart phones parts, but the reality is that more investments are required in dealing with automotive parts. This means that suppliers might not be keen on committing their products to Apple vehicles, which might initially be produced in small quantities.

Reports say that Apple executives envisioned an electric car capable of recognizing the driver by fingerprint. They also imagined it being able to navigate with the press of a button. A plan was in place for a partially autonomous vehicle with steering wheel and pedals, but changed to a fully autonomous automobile.

There are other companies that are working on devices and applications to unlock cars. BMW, for example, allows drivers of certain automobiles to lock and unlock with their smart phones. Another software company called Eleks Lab designed an experimental application that could allow drivers of Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) Model S to control the car using an Apple Watch. They can turn on its headlights to show where it’s parked. Hyundai also released a device called Android Wear watch. This watch can start a car’s engine, lock or unlock its doors, using the Blue Link system. Apple, meanwhile, has already been granted a patent that allows drivers to unlock their vehicles using an accessory control.

Apple touch ID fingerprint recognition feature is a great concept of how the company’s visions translate from computing technology, which could transition to the automotive industry. With a slight push of a finger on the sensor, you will be taken to your destination. From engine to combustion-centric technologies, and now to autonomous driving, it is exciting how automobile technologies are evolving when companies start envisioning innovative improvements and start turning them into reality.

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