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We’ve all wanted to drive standing up before, right? And we’ve all given a go, haven’t we? Haven’t we? Okay, probably not.
But Ford’s recent patent of a new invention that would allow people to drive their convertible SUV while fully upright had us thinking about the other ideas that car companies have come up with that are just plain wild, or actually quite good. It’s a fine line.
So here are our Top 5 weird but good car patents…
This patent by Hyundai was only filed two years ago and borders on silly rather than good. The patent involves the relocation of the driver’s instrument cluster to the steering wheel - yes, where the airbag lives.
The patent diagram clearly shows Hyundai’s intention to install a display smack-bang in the centre of the wheel with the idea being that the speed and other driving information won’t be obstructed by the wheel’s rim.
While visibility of your speedo would indeed be clear, it would involve a line of sight akin to staring at your feet, while driving. So, the complete opposite of a head-up display - a head-down display.
It’s not the first time a car company has literally tried to re-invent the (steering) wheel.
General Motors filed a patent in 2023 describing an inflatable steering wheel. No, you don’t have to blow it up yourself
While we haven’t seen the steering wheel mounted display released into the wild yet, Hyundai went as far as using the idea on its Genesis Mint concept car from 2020. So if you want to try to wrap your head around what the heck they were thinking then our photo here of the Mint’s steering wheel should explain everything… and nothing.
Yeah, you read that right. In 2019 Toyota patented a fragrance dispenser that recognises an authorised driver and greets them with a little squirt of perfume.
It’s a novel idea, but Toyota isn’t the first to add fragrance to their cars - Mercedes-Benz has offered it for years.
What’s different with the Toyota version is that it also operates as an anti-theft device, according to the description in the patent.
When the system detects an unauthorised starting of the vehicle, the dispenser will fire tear gas at the robber… or your brother because you’d forgotten he needed your car that day.
I kid you not. I’ve checked Toyota’s patent and here’s what it says: “The vehicle fragrance dispenser may prevent theft of a vehicle by releasing a tear gas component inside the vehicle when there is an illegitimate engine start in the vehicle.”
I mean, car theft is a big problem, but a thief attempting to drive while blinded from capsicum spray is surely going to cause problems of its own, too, not to mention the risk of the system malfunctioning and ruining the entire family’s day.
This Top 5 weird car patents and ideas could have just all been from Ford - that’s how prodigious the brand with the blue oval is when it comes to wacky concepts, but the nuclear-powered car really needs a mention.
The 1958 Ford Nucleon made it to concept stage but never to reality, thankfully.
Powered by a fusion reactor, the Nucleon concept debuted at an optimistic time in United States history when nuclear energy was seen as the limitless wonder fuel of the future.
The Nucleon had an odd shape - like a flatbed truck with a small cabin extremely far forward and a very short wheelbase.
The nuclear reactor was to be housed in the ‘bed’ of the vehicle and power steam turbines which turned the wheels.
The range of the Nucleon, according to Ford, would be about 8000km. But despite the excellent mileage, what to do with the spent nuclear fuel rods and the risk of a core meltdown while looking for a place to park at the shopping centre meant Ford’s plans were shelved.
Some people enjoy giving their cars a bath, others see it as a never-ending mind-numbing waste of time that’s a pointless exercise given that the vehicle is just going to be dirty again by this afternoon. BMW is counting on most people being the second type and has patented a robot that will do the job for you.
Okay, so when BMW says robot in the patent they mean a flying quadcopter drone. And if I’ve read this patent - filed in 2015 - correctly, the robot drone can survey the car for dirt and then wash and dry the vehicle autonomously.
Despite pouring over the 19-page patent I can’t see how the drone actually cleans the car and there’s no mention of water or hoses anywhere in the document.
I’m imagining a Dr Seuss-style robot with feather dusters and hands wearing gloves until proven otherwise.
While there’s also no mention of the robot cleaning the inside of the car (a job I hate more than doing the outside) it appears as though the drone could be housed onboard the vehicle so as to allow cleaning anytime or anywhere.
If you run or work in a car wash, I don’t think you have anything to fear just yet.
Ah, and now here’s the patent that started our journey into wild car ideas and it’s also today’s winner - a Ford SUV that can be driven while standing.
The patent, filed by Ford in July this year, shows diagrams of what appears to be a new Bronco convertible SUV piloted by a driver while standing in the footwell of the vehicle and using buttons mounted on the windscreen frame to control it.
Yep, why drive sitting down when you can do it standing up? Have you driven a Ford (standing up) lately?
Well, the idea is not to drive the SUV standing up all the time nor at high speed on a motorway, but it’s really intended for off-roading, where better visibility is required.
“There exist special cases in off-road driving where terrain or manoeuvres require a driver to be in a position other than fully seated to maintain the safety of both the vehicle and the driver,” the patent reads.
Look, standing up while driving sounds fun, but one thing it definitely doesn’t sound is safe - especially while the vehicle is perched precariously on the edge of a cliff while climbing over jagged rocks. But Ford says it’s okay, so it must be.