Apple patents wireless click wheel remote control for your vehicle’s steering wheel

“The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of twenty-one newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today,” Jack Purcher reports for Patently Apple.

“The most surprising one of them all is one that snuck through the patent system until today. The newly granted patent, which has never been seen before, reveals a wireless remote control for a vehicle’s steering wheel,” Purcher reports. “At a time when local and federal laws are being drafted to enforce ‘hands free’ operation of smartphones and other devices in vehicles, Apple’s invention comes to the rescue to provide their customers with a sound solution.”

Purcher reports, “The design borrows from Apple’s iPod click wheel but with a new touch-sensitive design. Interesting enough is that one of the engineers working on this project was a principal designer at California’s famous Frog Design.”

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Read more, including Apple’s patent application illustrations, in the full article here.


  1. Having worked in the auto industry, and participated in many driving courses, the position shown would not be practical as it would interfere with turing the wheel and actual driving. I take driving very seriously and know that driver’s cannot multi-task and drive.

    The Auto industry severely needs Apple to help them with automobile UI and I wish they were more involved. Mercedes Benz is exploring this already with their A class model but in Europe only at this time i believe.

    1. Agreed that would not be practical as shown in the drawing, but imagine if it were integrated into the steering wheel instead of the typical, limited use steering wheel controls now used. Move the cruise control back to a separate stalk and put a click wheel controller there instead.

      I agree with you completely, Apple needs to sell its services to car manufacturers ASAP. Cadillac’s CUE system shows promise, but for far too long auto infotainment systems have had horrible UIs. It’s more like a Microsoft design, with menus buried in menus and too many clicks to get to something useful.

      1. Come on, guys. You disappoint me…It’s Apple. Really…since when have they turned out something that they haven’t thought through and retested over and over and over again. I think Cook knew how Steve Jobs worked as well as Apple’s reputation for putting out the most unique and awesome technology so that this gadget won’t be submitted to the public until it’s picture perfect. My thing has always been that if Apple created it, it has to be good or it will be good.

  2. I sell Mercedes-Benz. Starting with the 2013 model year B Class (which is coming to the states), they are bringing Siri to your car. Pair your iPhone, and suddenly, Siri controls everything from audio to navigation, much better than voice control ever has.

  3. The biggest problem I have with current systems that allow your iPhone/iPod to connect to the car is that you lose the ability to control playlists, song selection, etc from the iPhone/iPod’s screen. You have to use the car’s system, which is often clunky or such that you have to scroll through every playlist, artist, song, etc. one at a time to find what you want. That’s much less efficient than using the Music app, and I feel creates a longer distraction time for the driver than using the iPhone’s screen.

    1. If you were as smart as the controls you’re talking about, you wouldn’t be pissing around with complex functions on your car’s entertainment system, instead you’d either creat a specific playlist and select it before setting off, or do as I do, plug in the iPod, set to shuffle songs, and hit play. Simple as that, like having your own radio station with no chatter.
      As I have around 13,000 songs for my iPod to play through, it keeps me entertained no matter how long my journey.
      Try it some time.

    2. Again, Mercedes-Benz gives you the option for Bluetoth audio streaming.

      It allows you to stream audio from any app, with full control via the device itself,, and it sounds incredible through my Benz’s Harmon Kardon sound system. 🙂

      I have an iPod cable in my center console, but I never use it.

      I plug into the cigarette lighter instead, and stream over Bluetooth.

  4. Kensington have a similar remote. Used to use it a lot but the battery dies quickly. Hopefully Apple’s design won’t infringe on Kensington’s.
    The idea is great and very useful. Positioning is important. Being on top of the steering wheel will be annoying and make it difficult when turning. The Kensington approach was to have the controller lying flush with the wheel and that worked well.
    I would prefer and attachment that can be mounted more in the center as long as it didn’t interfere with the air bag.

  5. Forget how it interferes with the steering wheel. It doesn’t strike me as being useful. The basic play/pause/skip functionality is pretty common on most cars nowadays anyway, and anything scrollwheel related would still require you look at a screen to see what you were scrolling through.

    With the volume of music I have on my iPhone it would be dangerous to try and find it whilst driving, so I either do it via the iPhone before I set off, or just have it on random, or just skip things.

  6. Actually a voice command makes a lot more sense. Only Ford, KIA (UNO) and a third partty company called Eonon have that function. Guess MB will be in that group shortly.

    Esp for older cars. Would put this in the old 50’s knob spinner for steering wheels. They ban them due to being dangerous.

    The newer head units can control the iPod/iPhone and some times the iPad pretty well including certain app’s. And display info from them on there screen.

  7. Or even better when you do get in a wreck your fancy little wireless controller is gonna be a projectile off of your steering wheel from airbag and then it’s gonna blow a hole right through your head, then you can say you have an iBrain 😉

  8. There are a billion older cars or lower cost vehicles that don’t have fancy features. So this will work and it’s better than reaching over to fiddle with your iPod or iPhone.

    It’s a concept that we all know that Apple will refine until it’s a must have. Who thought they’d invent a cover for the iPad with magnets? While it’s not Apple’s best idea, you have to wonder why this is being zipped through the patent office so quickly. For something like $49 I’d consider it.

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