Ford Files Airbag Patent For Self-Driving Car That Will Never Exist

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Ford filed a patent for use in autonomous vehicles shortly before axing its autonomous vehicle department.

Ford has published a rather interesting patent for a new type of roof-mounted airbag.

We've seen them in use in cars already, but most are just a large cushion over the headliner of the vehicle in question, like an F-150. Instead, Ford's new system appears to be built for an autonomous vehicle.

Diagrams show occupants facing each other, which creates a lack of viable surfaces to put an airbag on, like a car's dash. This could be Ford's solution, which is strange considering it recently killed Argo, its joint autonomous vehicle venture with Volkswagen. It appears Ford may have a patent for use in a self-driving car that'll never see the light of day.

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It looks like the items would descend to cover the rear seatback, which could act as a secondary restraint in addition to the car's seatbelt. However, based on Ford's diagrams, it's unclear how seatbelts would factor in here, as they aren't pictured.

The shape of the airbags is new to us, using a series of interconnected, cylindrical elements to cushion and shield occupants. Ford describes them as an airbag with "non-inflatable panels and inflatable chambers in an alternating arrangement."

The brand's filings with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) indicate the system will be adaptable to several body styles. Still, the amount of clearance around the seatback will be integral to the patent's real-world application- if one even exists as Ford's interest in self-driving wanes. That could limit potential applications.

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It's worth noting that Argo was shuttered soon after this patent was published in October. With that in mind, we may be looking at an old Argo patent that'll never see the light of day.

We can't imagine this patent being of much use in a more conventional car, like an F-150, at least in its current form. The deployment is centered around a vehicle where passengers aren't facing a dash or seatback but rather each other, meaning the airbags must protect and restrain. With the death of Argo, we may never know.

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