First things first. As a reminder, patent filings aren't remotely a guarantee of an idea coming to fruition. That's especially true in the automotive world, where it's not uncommon to see hundreds of patents from automakers on a weekly basis. We don't often see these ideas materialize in production form, so keep that in mind as you peruse this bonkers patent about a stand-up driving position from Ford.
This was filed by FoMoCo back in 2021 but published just last week, and it grabbed our attention. Seeing a depiction of a Bronco with a person apparently driving it from the windshield pillar is certainly attention-worthy, but according to information in the patent filing, the application of this proposed system isn't quite as dramatic.
The functionality here is two-fold. The obvious use is to control the vehicle while not seated behind the steering wheel. A standing position is depicted, with a person controlling the Bronco through sensors on the windshield frame. The patent also talks about kneeling and leaning over the side, so in theory, controls could be placed in multiple locations where a driver might have better visibility of the immediate surroundings. Anyone familiar with aggressive off-roading knows the importance of visibility and precisely navigating the terrain. If a spotter isn't available, this system could legit help the driver clear tricky obstacles.
The second aspect of this patent – one that might have a better chance of seeing production – is a litany of sensors to help detect whether a driver is actually in the vehicle beyond sitting in a seat. This can affect how vehicle convenience and safety systems operate, such as automatically shifting to park if a driver isn't detected. This could allow the driver to move all over the place while the vehicle moves forwards, but safety isn't completely ignored here. The patent discusses such functionality being available in specific modes, limited to very low speeds, and so forth.
It's certainly an interesting idea, but it's not the only curious patent filing we've seen recently from automakers, and in particular, Ford. The Blue Oval borrowed a page from Tesla's playbook with a neat-o gullwing door patent for SUVs that published back in April, and around the same time, we saw a patent for detecting oncoming trains. 2023 started with a patent for a drive-in movie mode, keeping certain vehicle systems operating while squatting the rear suspension for a better view of the screen.
Perhaps the most controversial patent we've seen this year from Ford involves owners who've fallen behind on vehicle payments. Titled Systems and Methods to Repossess a Vehicle, the proposed patent features software tech that could be used by a third party to lock owners out of cars. For vehicles with self-drive capability, the patent even outlines how a car might repossess itself, literally driving autonomously to a location where a tow truck can pick it up, or to a repo yard directly.
Will any of these patents come to life in production vehicles? Only time will tell.