During my eight-year tenure as a resident of the South Dakota Black Hills, I was fortunate enough to live 15 minutes away from a nice drive-in theater. As such, I can personally attest that the features proposed by Ford in this patent filing for a drive-in movie mode are clever. Unfortunately, with only around 320 drive-ins left in the US, there may not be enough demand to warrant its development.

First off, let's talk about the Carolina Squat. As a refresher, that's the trend of modifying vehicles to sit considerably lower in the back, leaving the front pointed toward the sky. Some people equate this suspension mod to that of a dog going number two on the lawn, and it's straight-up banned in Virginia. However, as a veteran of a dozen or so drive-in movies, I can't think of a better venue to slam that backside to the ground. You'd be surprised how often the upper windshield frame interferes with viewing the screen, but of course, it would require a vehicle with height-adjustable suspension.

Curiously, the patent description mentions this feature almost in passing, buried several pages down. The focal point of drive-in mode revolves around the infotainment system, which can also be problematic for movie-goers in modern vehicles. A completely dark interior is always best at the drive-in (for seeing the movie screen, you pervs) but tuning the stereo to a local station is required to get the audio.

That means the center display usually stays lit, and even the lowest light level can negatively affect the movie experience. Moreover, the infotainment system may time out after several minutes, which positively sucks when you miss a key plot twist. A vehicle restart or at least an electrical system cycle is usually required to get the audio back, and that can trigger the daytime running lights. Believe me, nothing upsets folks at the drive-in more than getting lit up by the car behind them.

Drive-In Theater Black Hills

Convertible at the drive-in is boss, but relaxing in a reclined SUV with a gazillion speakers would be nice. Photo Credit: Christopher Smith

This drive-in mode could eliminate all that. Engaging the system would not only allow unlimited use of the stereo in a dark environment, but it could also activate the air conditioning and other convenience features as needed. It would disable daytime running lights while allowing occupants to use the horn or lights for signaling drive-in employees if necessary. And yes, it would squat in place to give the best possible view of the screen.

Since theaters are so scarce in the States, Ford proposes this system could be used at other venues where people remain in their vehicles. During the height of the pandemic, there were many locations that offered everything from temporary theaters to church services. Sensors and GPS data would link up to determine if a spot is suitable for activating the system, presumably to prevent nefarious use of the squat.

The patent was filed last year but published only recently. As of now, it's unclear if such a system will be offered in future Fords, but it's certainly a cool idea.

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