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Ford Develops Deployable Roof Racks With Aerodynamic And Self-Driving Benefits

Key Takeaways

  • Ford’s patent for a deployable roof rack system features power connections to support new accessories and driver assistance systems.
  • A deployable roof rail system can improve aerodynamics and energy consumption by stowing out of the airstream when not needed.
  • Potential uses of the system include heater pads for rooftop tents, self-driving sensors, and indicator lights for load limits.

Another interesting Ford patent has been discovered by CarBuzz at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, detailing designs for a new deployable roof rack system with power connections. Earlier this year, Rivian patented something similar, but while that system was relatively straightforward, Ford’s approach adds power connections, and this opens up several possibilities.

The most obvious benefit to a deployable roof rail system is that it can be stowed out of the airstream when not needed, improving aerodynamics and thereby potentially reducing energy consumption – great for an EV where aerodynamic drag saps range. Where Ford’s patent differs is how the roof rails could serve as the foundation of new accessories and driver assistance systems.

Potential Uses

The design of the system is simple enough: recesses in the roof house roof rails that can be deployed using motor actuation. Ford notes that the deployable roof rail system is entirely removable, indicating a design that would be applied to all supporting vehicles at the factory. This means it should be easy to retrofit or remove. It also means that several accessories could be fitted, including a heater pad (potentially for a rooftop tent), self-driving sensors, and light bars. Ford has already detailed designs for a powered roof rack in a patent from last year, so this element isn’t particularly new, only its specific use cases.


Ford Develops Extendable Truck Bed Rails For Maximum Cargo Security

The F-150 pickup of tomorrow may arrive with deployable bedside rails to make trucks even more useful.

We particularly like the idea of self-driving sensors being hidden from view when not in use, as this would signal to other road users that the car is driving itself, and when not in use, the vehicle could maintain an attractive aesthetic. But our favorite idea is the simplest: with a powered roof rail, sensors can be applied to the roof racks, with red, yellow, and green indicator lights used to show whether the vehicle is at its load limit, near it, or far from it. The lights could also be used on each corner, indicating if the load is unbalanced to one side.

Several Recent Truck Patents

Over the past year or so, we’ve seen a notable increase in the number of patents that Ford has filed for off-road accessories and truck attachments. Among these are a roof with integrated lighting, a system enabling off-road drivers to stand when navigating a tricky trail, and even a bolt-on third axle. Several new takes on truck beds and tailgates have also been developed. While there’s no guarantee that any of these systems are viable for production, it’s clear that Ford is continually looking for ways to improve its trucks and SUVs.

Patent filings do not guarantee the use of such technology in future vehicles and are often used exclusively as a means of protecting intellectual property. Such a filing cannot be construed as production intent.


Ford Wants Bronco Owners To Stand While Driving Off-Road

What could possibly go wrong?

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