If you want a sneak peek into how the Dryve generation will evolve, look at the car patents being filed. Not all patents make it from scratch-pad drawings to real-world tech. But they show us what the leading industry minds think is possible.
Here’s a few car patents filed in 2016 that excite us for what’s ahead.
1. Toyota’s Aerocar
According to Back to the Future, flying cars were due out by 2015. But a patent filed by Toyota for a “shape morphing fuselage for an aerocar” is making the stuff of movies a reality.
Toyota’s patent filing shows a vehicle with adjustable body panels that hide wings and a propulsion system that extends off the back bumper. The shape-shifting design is intended to increase visibility when the vehicle is in driving mode, not to mention make parking easier.
According to the filing, flying vehicles “provide operators with freedom, comfort, and the ability to arrive quickly to a destination as mobility becomes three dimensional yet remains private and personal.”
This is the future we’ve been waiting for since the Jetsons.
2. Ford’s Vehicle Drone
What lies ahead? With your own personal vehicle drone, you can glimpse further down the road. Launched from your own car, Ford engineers envision the drone mapping out what an autonomous car sensors can’t yet detect. According to the patent, the drone device extends “the range of any one or more sensors, visual systems and/or communications interfaces that may be onboard the vehicle.”
The engineers also believe drones can help off-road adventure seekers avoid rocks or other or obstacles on non-paved paths. Passengers control the drone using the vehicle’s infotainment and navigation systems.
Ford is already testing these drones. Earlier this year, the carmaker held a competition with China-based drone maker, DJI, to see if individual teams could teach drones to fly from and return to a moving Ford F-150 pick-up truck. Only one team was successful.
We may have to wait a few more years for that one. And, our new President will want it made in the U.S.
3. Google’s Pedestrian Glue
When a car hits a pedestrian, they can fly off and hit another object or, worse, get run over. To reduce secondary impact injuries, Google patented a sticky technology to protect struck pedestrians.
The patent, which works like human fly paper, is a sticky adhesive layer on the front-end of a vehicle. When a pedestrian hits the front, they stick to the hood of the car instead of being thrown off.
The patent states: “This instantaneous or nearly-instantaneous action may help to constrain the movement of the pedestrian, who may be carried on the front end of the vehicle until the driver of the vehicle (or the vehicle itself in the case of an autonomous vehicle) reacts to the incident and applies the brakes.”
The patent is designed for self-driving vehicles, but can be used by human-controlled cars, as well.
4. Ford’s Car as Living Room
Two car patents out of Ford show there’s room to reimagine an autonomous car’s interior if no one is, indeed, driving. In one patent for an “autonomous vehicle entertainment system,” the windshield does double-duty as a cinema screen. That’s roughly a 50-inch plus movie screen!
And while forward-facing chairs make handy cinema seats, Ford bets people might want to simply enjoy one another’s company. A patent for an “autonomous vehicle with reconfigurable seats” allows car seats to swivel and fold, all while the vehicle is moving. The steering wheel can even retract into the dashboard to provide more room.
Among available configurations is a “living room” format where the front seats face the back to allow for better conversation. The front seats also fold down as a footrest for backseat passengers.
Cars in the 1960’s were often the size of living rooms. Nice to see they’ll soon really be doubling as one.
5. Amazon’s Flying Warehouse
Amazon has been testing drone delivery for quite some time. But now it’s poised to deploy flying delivery drones from an enormous mother ship.
A patent for “airborne fulfillment centers” describes a blimp or other airship filled with goods which cruise at altitudes of up to 45,000 feet. Drones would be deployed from the flying warehouse to deliver goods “in minutes.”
The filing lists several potential uses for the warehouse blimp. For example, football goers at a stadium might want food or merchandise delivered to them in the stands. The blimp could also advertise products and allow customers to order the items on display, with their wares distributed on-demand.