The tech turns your smartphone into a way to control a car.

Rumors continue to swirl that Apple has a team developing a car behind closed doors. A newly granted patent might provide some hints about how an owner’s iPhone would control the iCar, if it actually exists. The brand's tech would let you to unlock a vehicle’s doors from a smartphone and do a whole lot more.

Apple's patent focuses on communication between a vehicle and a portable device, which is clearly an iPhone in the company’s illustrations. Once a gadget has permission to transmit data to the car, then the owner can do things like unlock the doors and start the engine. A person's smartphone can also act as an electronic key. For example, when the driver gets far enough away from a vehicle, the engine would no longer start. When the tech senses an authorized user is nearby, it could also automatically adjust the seats and entertainment system to his or her preferences.

In addition, the owner can share access with other portable devices, which allows more than one gadget to control the same vehicle. The functionality would let you split control over the car with a spouse or friend. It also might be useful for parents of young drivers because there can be limits on what features are available to other permitted users.

Even if Apple’s car never reaches the market, this patent could still be useful. The recent work on CarPlay shows the firm wants to supply its tech to automakers. If any companies are willing to give up total control over their product, this solution would take the next step by integrating Apple deeply into a vehicle’s systems.

Source: Free Patents Online via Patently Apple

Gallery: Apple Digital Key Patent