Apple wants users to be able to share a digital Car Key, as evidenced by a newly granted patent (number US 11891015 B2). The company’s Car Key feature allows you to add your car key to the Apple Wallet on your iPhone or Apple Watch.
About the patent
The patent involves techniques for sharing a secure digital car key with a set of electronic devices associated with an individual. In the patent, Apple says there’s increased interest from vehicle manufacturers in electronic features and services. For example, in recent years some vehicle manufacturers have implemented or supported the use of secure digital car keys, such as digital car keys that are compatible with protocols defined by the Car Connectivity Consortium or CCC (of Beaverton, Oregon).
Notably, after a user (such as an owner of a vehicle) performs a car-key-pairing procedure between an electronic device (such as the user’s cellular telephone) and the vehicle, the user may use the electronic device as a digital car key for the vehicle via wireless communication. This capability may allow the electronic device to supplement or to replace the use of a separate key fob.
However, the availability of digital car keys poses additional challenges. For example, it’s difficult for the user to share or transfer a digital car key to other individuals. Notably, in existing share procedures, only the owner of a vehicle may directly share their digital car key.
This means if the owner shares a digital car key with a family member, the family member may not be able to securely share the digital car key with another individual, such as a friend, a valet, a towing service or a mechanic. Instead, if the family member wants to share the digital car key with the other individual, they typically need to ask the owner to share the digital car key with the other individual.
Apple says this approach is “cumbersome and inconvenient, which is frustrating to users and decreases the likelihood that users will take advantage of digital car keys and associated services.” Apple wants to make groups sharing of Car Keys easy.
Summary of the patent
Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent: “During operation, an electronic device may provide, to a second electronic device, an invitation to share a digital car key associated with a user of the electronic device and a vehicle, where the invitation includes information for creating another instance of the digital car key on the second electronic device. Then, the electronic device may receive, from the second electronic device, a message accepting the invitation, where the message includes a certificate associated with the other instance of the digital car key on the second electronic device.
“Moreover, the electronic device may provide, to the second electronic device, an approved version of the certificate with a digital signature of the user. Next, the electronic device may provide, to the computer, an instruction to share the digital car key with a set of electronic devices, which is associated with a second user of the second electronic device.”