Apple Patents a Remote Control, Apparently for Cars
An iCar? Not yet. But a steering-wheel-mounted remote control was among the 21 patents granted to Apple this week. We don’t typically track patent applications and grants for the Cupertino-based tech company—it holds or has filed for thousands of them—and came to this one through PatentlyApple.com. The device, as Apple describes it in its paperwork, is pretty simple: A disc with traditional iPod controls can be clamped to the steering wheel rim. It could then, we take it, remotely operate an iPod, iPhone, or iPad.
In fact, in the diagrams Apple submitted, it looks like the remote is controlling Apple iOS software on the car’s own screen. A number of tech researchers have looked at using in-car screens to duplicate smartphone displays, and Apple may be working on similar tech—or, this may have just been a convenient way to demonstrate its device.
We have concerns about significant ergonomic problems with Apple’s remote, though. To begin with, it’s touch-sensitive. Steering wheel controls really need a tactile element so drivers can operate them without looking down at the wheel—especially when each virtual button is as small as they look in Apple’s diagrams. We also have concerns about the curved clamp arms adequately adjusting to keep the remote securely held to steering wheels of varying sizes and diameters. Even with a good fit, a rotating steering wheel and bumps from quick-moving hands could knock the remote loose, either leaving it sliding around the rim or kicking it off entirely. At best, this would be a distraction for a driver. At worst, it could interfere with safely using the steering wheel.
Courtesy: Justin Berkowitz