Apple has obtained the rights to a facial recognition system that can be used to unlock a vehicle without a physical key.
Futurism reports that Apple filed for the technology in early 2017 and that it was only recently published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on February 7 under the title “System and Method for Vehicle Authorization.”
The patent details two ways a user could use facial recognition to unlock their vehicle. The first would be to install the required technology on the vehicle itself, allowing the user to simply stand in front of the sensors and have their face scanned before opening the door and stepping inside. Alternatively, a user could use the Face ID unlock feature available on their Apple smartphone (from the X onward) to unlock the vehicle.
In addition to simply unlocking the vehicle, the facial recognition technology can remember specific vehicle settings for different users. For example, if the vehicle’s owner has their face scanned, the vehicle could automatically adapt the music, seat position, and climate control preferences.
It remains to be seen how likely Cupertino is to bring this technology to the market. Towards the end of January, Apple dismissed more than 200 employees involved in its autonomous vehicle group dubbed Project Titan and this move was interpreted by some as a setback (or even worse) for its lofty automotive ambitions.
We have seen at least one similar facial recognition systems implemented before: in the Faraday Future FF91 prototype. However, the chances of that EV hitting the market are slim to none. Consequently, the only production vehicle we know of to use biometrics to grant access is the new Hyundai Santa Fe bound exclusively for China. This vehicle includes fingerprint sensors to unlock the doors and start the engine, though, and not facial recognition.