by Bill Snyder

How Apple is Teaching Siri to Control Your In-Car Settings

Aug 05, 20133 mins
Consumer ElectronicsiPhoneMobile Apps

Apple has patented a technology that could let you control in-car settings for seat placement, mirrors, air conditioning and more using a Siri-friendly iPhone app.

I’ve ranted on numerous occasions about the folly of driverless cars and the dangers of hands-free technology. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see useful and, more importantly, safe technology in our automobiles. Apple has come up with an interesting idea that appears to meet both criteria.

Let’s say you and a spouse share a car. One of you is tall, the other short. It’s annoying to adjust the tilt of the steering wheel, the seat angle and its distance from the wheel every time you switch drivers. And it’s hard to find the perfect spot each time you do. A patent filed by Apple last week could help.

You’d just download an app, then enter and save the seat settings for each driver. The next time you open the car door, you could launch the app, confirm the driver, and everything would adjust automatically. Such an app could also work for audio, AC and mirror settings. In fact, it could work with anything that’s controlled electronically.


Of course, filing a patent isn’t the same thing as launching a real product. But given Apple’s ongoing partnership with a number of auto makers, this one could become a reality sooner than later.

During Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference in June the company announced iOS in the Car, which will integrate iOS 7 (expected this fall) with cars’ dashboard systems. 

Apple didn’t share many details when it announced iOS in the Car, but we do know it will have a Siri hook, which means it should support voice commands. Text messages will also reportedly be displayed on the dashboard and then read back by Siri–an idea that I don’t like because it’s a potential distraction. The new feature could also integrate with the iPhone’s GPS system to display traffic conditions and estimated times of arrival.

Apple has partnered with a long list of auto makers, including Honda, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, Ferrari, Chevy, Infinity, Kia, Hyundai, Volvo, Acura, Opel and Jaguar. So it’s probably not a huge leap to add the remote-control technology shown in the recent patent. Such a system should include some sort of a lock, though, so you can’t accidentally order your seat to move while you’re cruising down I-5 at 70 miles per hour.

The remote control technology could also be used outside the automotive world. From the patent:

“While up to this point the present technology has largely been described in the context of automobiles, it should be appreciated that the present technology is equally applicable to many other environments. For example a hotel room might be another example wherein the present technology could be used to configure climate control settings, and television and lighting preferences. Further, it should be appreciate [sic] that in some environments translation of measurements or data might not be needed.”

Sounds pretty cool to me.