Patent documents are a rich vein for some…interesting ideas, like what Ford did here.
Normally patent applications are fairly mundane, but here’s something that will make you stand up and take notice, like the folks over at CarBuzz did. Apparently, Ford Global Technologies, LLC had an idea to let you pilot your Bronco while standing up. You know, for that more commanding view on off-road trails. If you’ve ever desperately wanted to roleplay as General George S. Patton, this could be your opportunity.
Mind you, the date on Ford’s application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is July 4, not April 1. And what a purely, incontrovertibly American idea this is. Here’s how it works: While standing through the cupola, as it were, Ford envisions a couple capactive touchpads atop the windshield as secondary controls for acceleration, braking and steering.
“A method [for redundant vehicle controls] can include determining a presence and a position of a driver in a sensing zone of a vehicle using a sensor platform integrated into the vehicle,” the patent document begins. The reasoning behind developing this sort of technology at all? “These non-fully seated positions may allow a driver to visualize their surrounding environment in ways taht would be difficult or impossible if the driver were in a fully-seated position.”
Ford goes on in describing this idea to note drivers often assume “alternative positions” while off-roading, that include leaning out the window, lifting up off the seat or even standing up entirely (while using the conventional pedals and steering wheel).
Would you dig this idea?
In the context of “driving” as we’ve known it over the past hundred-odd years, it’s easy to snicker a bit and think of it as a bit of a joke. The flowchart below and descriptions do go into great detail laying out the serious use cases, and Ford makes a great point about the difficulties of seeing various technical obstacles while you’re off-roading. If you judge an obstacle wrong, the consequences can be disastrous, so there is plenty of incentive to think up some solutions to what is, for an increasing number of drivers buying these off-road SUVs, a common problem.
That said, there are obviously great downsides to attempting to drive your Bronco while standing in an upright position. Falling out of it, for one, or getting knocked away from any of the controls while the vehicle’s moving, even if it’s at a slow speed. Of course, Ford notes this sort of idea would only be implemented at low speeds, so it’s not like you’ll see folks blasting down the Interstate standing out the top of their Broncos…though I’m starting the countdown to the first moron actually reckless enough to try and game it, if this system does (in some universe) actually become a reality.
I say “in some universe” because this is just a patent application, after all. Ford’s just putting their name down on the idea — this isn’t a guarantee that it’s actually planning to put this sort of technology into production. That said, if you were to launch this sort of tech, the Bronco would be an ideal platform to do it. Part of me is genuinely curious to see how this sort of system would work in practice…once you get it past legal, that is. Or federal safety regulators. Good luck with that.
All the time we’ve been going over the idea, I’m sure a simple and potent idea has been going through your head: Use a spotter. It’s always, always, always a good idea to bring a friend along when you’re off-roading. Perhaps in their own rig, so you have a means to recover if you do get in a tough spot.
That’s so logical and reasonable, though. I want to stand up and pretend I’m piloting a tank, don’t you?
If you want to check out the full patent application, here’s a link to the document in its entirety.