Apple patents show 'iOS in the Car' plans are still on track

Plans for a full touchscreen dash board would give iOS controls to everything from heating to radio
  • @jjvincent

Although recent rumours for Apple’s next move have been focused on the iWatch, a new patent filing shows that the tech-giant have designs on your car as well.

US patent filing No. 8,482,535 shows that Apple have developed the concept for a touch-screen to replace all the dials and buttons on your dashboard. The interface would control everything from music to heating.

Here’s an excerpt from the patent filing:

“FIG. 1C Illustrates one example of a conceptual vehicle basic dash board (1) and center stack (5) with tactile displays and/or touch screens made possible by this invention, incorporated in the steering wheel center, the center stack, the console, the passenger side of the dash board, and possible the instrument cluster itself, not here illustrated.”

Another indication of Apple’s automotive designs come from reports of hidden ‘Accessory Developer’ features in the latest upgrade to Apple’s mobile operating system – iOS 7. The supposedly secret toggle switches give users the options to connect ‘iOS in the Car’ through either wifi or USB.

The ‘iOS in the Car’ project was revealed at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference but the company have so far skimped on the details – especially regarding the crucial issue of whether the system would be delivered by car manufacturers or Apple themselves.

The basic concept is that 95% of cars sold (in the US_ already have iOS music controls available through Bluetooth or USB, but what if the iOS system had a dedicated home on a screen in your car. As well as controlling music, apps like Maps and iMessages could be accessed – as well as Siri, Apple’s personal assistant.

Apple claim the new system will be available from 2014, supported by a wide range of manufacturers including Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Nissan, Volvo, Kia and Jaguar.

However, there are a lot of roadblocks stopping this happening. For a start car manufacturers currently need their home-built software to differentiate themselves from their competitors with many already offering the sort of functionality that Apple would want to muscle in on.

Other makers are simply sceptical that touch is the best way to get in-car functionality. It’s the sort of system that works perfectly parked in a car dealership, but soon becomes frustrating and distracting when driving on anything but the smoothest, straightest motorway. Apple's latest patent filing tries to solve this problem, providing a series of ridges and indents to help guide driver's fingers - but how practical this would be remains to be seen.

Some big companies – including BMW - have already declared that their unsure about participating with the project, but this latest batch of patent’s suggest that Apple are ploughing ahead regardless.