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Patently Apple spotted two car-related Apple patent applications, one allowing an iPhone to act as a smart-key, the other helping you locate your car when parked in a large car-park.

The smart-key idea uses a Bluetooth connection from the phone to unlock the car, which could be done either manually or via a proximity rule, unlocking your car as you approach it …

But it goes much further than this, offering similar functionality to Ford’s MyKey parental control system - allowing access to the car only during certain hours (for example, during the day but not late at night), setting a maximum speed limit for the car, setting geofence limits (perhaps not allowing it on freeways or outside the home town) and limiting access to the on-board entertainment systems while driving.

While car-park location apps are commonplace, the Apple system differs from these in two ways. First, it’s fully automatic, using data from cameras and sensors to automatically detect when the car is parked. Second, the Apple system would work in underground garages, where there is no GPS reception, using sensors installed in the parking garage itself. TechCrunch also reminds us of Apple’s acquisition of indoor positioning system company WiFiSLAM, suggesting that this technology might also play a role.

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While Steve Jobs’ vision of an iCar was never realized, Apple technology is starting to make an appearance in cars. Siri Eyes Free was first introduced in the Chevy Sonic and Spark, with Honda set to follow suit with its 2013 Accord and Acura models. BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, and Chrysler are also set to offer Eyes Free.

VW went slightly further, integrating an iPhone cradle into the dash of its Apple-inspired iBeetle, together with an app offering similar functionality to Eyes Free with the addition of a basic car data interface.