Apple's new Maps patent guides your car around cell phone dead spots

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Susie Ochs

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Every day when I drive over the Bay Bridge, I lose my wireless signal, just briefly. This is the firstest of first-world problems, and some days I don’t notice, but often I’m streaming music on a shuffle, and the track tries to change, and it just…can’t. It’s super annoying.

Driving around the entire San Francisco Bay is obviously not an option, but if Apple follows through on a patent it received Tuesday, someday your Apple in-dash navigation system could steer you in the direction of a strong wireless signal, so you never lose touch.

As reported by GigaOm, the patent is for navigation technology that takes the strength of nearby wireless signals into account when deciding how to route you. The algorithm would take into account geography like hills, the location of cellular towers, changing network loads, and even the weather.

Your mobile device could also collect data on the signal strength along your route, and report that data back to Apple’s remote servers. Apple could even color-code a map of the area, showing strong signals in green and weak in red—even if you aren’t in the car at the moment, you could see which way to walk to get a better signal, and avoid pacing ’round in circles repeating, “Can you hear me now? How about now?” or trying and failing to get an iMessage to go through.

Apple is rumored to be working on a car of its own, but its CarPlay systems are already shipping in new vehicles from several automakers, plus aftermarket units by companies like Alpine, Pioneer, and Kenwood.

Of course, just because Apple files a patent, doesn’t mean we’ll see this functionality appearing in a shipping product anytime soon. But as someone who’s dropped plenty of calls and endured interruptions in my music-streaming while driving around the Bay Area’s many bridges and hills, this technology seems like a great idea.

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