Car key breathalyzer function may refuse to unlock the car;

Drunk driving kills one person every 52 minutes in the United States – which is a good reason Apple is researching a Car Key breathalyzer feature that would refuse to unlock the car if you exceed the legal alcohol limit.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today released an Apple patent application for this feature …

Car key

We first disabled Apple’s car key feature in early 2020, before it was officially announced the same year.

CarKey uses NFC technology to communicate with the car, allowing the devices to function as a real car key. During the initial process, users need to put their iPhone on the car’s NFC reader, then CarKey will be available in the Wallet app. [Once configured]CarKey works automatically without having to unlock your phone or open any application.

Requires an iPhone XR or later or Apple Watch Series 5 or later. Support for this feature was initially limited to some BMW models, but is slowly being adopted by other car manufacturers. You can read more about it here.

Driving while drunk

The National Road Safety Administration (NHTSA) outlines the seriousness of the problem.

About 28 people in the United States are killed in drunk driving crashes every day – that’s one person every 52 minutes. In 2019, these deaths reached their lowest percentage since the NHTSA began reporting alcohol data in 1982 – but still 10,142 people lost their lives. All these deaths could have been prevented […]

About one-third of all road fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers (with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 g / dL or greater).

NHTSA recommends US drivers a five-point plan:

  1. Plan a safe trip home before the party starts, choose a nonsmoked friend as your designated driver.
  2. If someone you know is drinking, do not let that person take the wheel. Take their keys and help them organize a sober trip home.
  3. If you are drinking, do not drive under any circumstances. Call a taxi, ambulance or a sober friend.
  4. If you are organizing a party where alcohol will be served, make sure all guests leave with a sober driver.
  5. Always wear seat belts – this is the best protection against handicapped drivers.

Patent application for a breathalyzer for a car key

An Apple patent application describes how the function of a car key can be improved to require communication with a breathalyzer. If the reading is too high, the car key may either refuse to unlock the car door or allow entry but prevent the car from moving.

In some embodiments, if a user attempts to remove a temporary restriction on a secure credential before a predetermined period of time has elapsed, one or more unlock criteria must be met before the temporary restriction can be removed. For example, one or more unblocking criteria may include one or more biometric criteria (e.g., a blood alcohol level below a threshold). In response to data detection, the electronic device displays a notification instructing the user to breathe into the breathalyzer (e.g. a breathalyzer that communicates wirelessly or wired with the device) […]

The electronic device receives biometric information indicating that the user’s blood alcohol level is 0.00, which is below the threshold value. Based on the determination that the user’s blood alcohol level meets one or more of the biometric criteria, the electronic device displays an indication and removes the security credential restrictions.

In contrast, the electronic device receives biometric information indicating that the user’s blood alcohol level is 0.08, which does not fall below the threshold value. Based on the determination that the user’s blood alcohol level does not meet one or more of the biometric criteria, the electronic device displays an indication and maintains security credentials restrictions.

Inexpensive wireless breathalyzers have been available for many years – I tested a pilot-sized breathalyzer in 2014.

In the US, it is possible that a person convicted of drunk driving will need to have a breathalyzer fitted to their car after serving a driving ban or prison sentence, preventing the vehicle from starting unless the reading is well below the legal limit. As the car key becomes a standard feature, this technology can make it much easier to impose such conditions on all inmates.

Of course, we add our usual patent disclaimer: Apple patents many ideas, most of which never end up in products – but I very much hope this one shows up.

Via patented Apple

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