As the diagram shows, Apple’s solution is a steering-wheel mounted clickwheel (as used on the iPod Classic), which can be used to control other Apple devices, such as an iPad, iPod or iPhone.
The patent filing was revealed by Patently Apple, a website dedicated to Apple’s “spirit of innovation.” Use of the steering-wheel-mounted remote control would allow drivers to change songs, playlists or internet radio stations without taking their eyes off the road, which few would argue is a good thing.
The remote would be powered by a button-style battery, and its clip-on base would accommodate a variety of steering wheel rim widths. There’s no provision to mount it to the center of the steering wheel, likely because doing so would potentially cause injury in an airbag deployment.
To account for individual preferences on mounting position, the controller face can be rotated so that the menu button is always on top, the play button is always on the bottom, rewind is always to the left and fast forward is always to the right.
It’s worth noting that a patent filing doesn’t necessarily mean a product will be built, so there’s no way to know if Apple is actually pursuing development. We wouldn’t put anything in our own cars that could potentially interfere with steering wheel operation, but we can certainly see the appeal for others.