This would make car journeys a lot safer for our cherished four-legged friends.
If you belong to one of the 90 million households that has a furry family member, you're certainly well-versed in the challenges of traveling with animals. Fido may bring you plenty of joy, but it's not always easy to drive around with a boisterous pet prancing about in the back. In response, the world's automakers offer an array of accessories to make man's best friend more comfortable, but what about safety?
Well, it seems the boffins over at Ford are working on a restraint system for pets, that would protect them in the event of an accident. First uncovered by Motor Authority, the patent application (filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office) describes a collar and harness attached to a leash, which itself is "secured to a support structure on the vehicle."
So, how would a system such as this work? As per the filing, the restraint structure would rely on several sensors which constantly relay information to the wearable device. These sensors will adjust the harness according to vehicle speed, road positioning, and even road conditions, and regulate itself accordingly. After all, you wouldn't want your four-legged front to suffer any discomfort.
Interestingly, it's even capable of sensing whether your pet is agitated with the harness and can loosen the restraint as needed. This is made possible via image capturing, which monitors the pet's mood constantly. The leash itself is clipped into the seat belt buckle, which should allow for greater safety if the vehicle is involved in an accident.
Before you rush off to see if this system is available for the family Escape, we must stress that there's a strong possibility we may never see this technology. We certainly hope it makes its way into future vehicles, though. Several authorities on the subject have warned of the dangers of traveling with animals, noting that pets can cause distracted driving.
Sadly, thousands of unrestrained pets lose their lives in car crashes every year. That's not to say things are getting better for chauffeured animals, though. Tesla and Rivian both offer a "Dog Mode" feature that enables owners to leave the air-conditioner running while the vehicle is switched off. To prevent hysteria, a message is displayed on the dashboard instructing passers-by not to panic.
Elsewhere, Toyota is also working on a system that has the potential to save countless lives, pets or otherwise. The Cabin Awareness technology relies on a 4D imaging radar that can detect whether a child or pet has been left behind in the vehicle. This system is yet to make its way to production Toyotas, but we certainly hope it's implemented soon.
If the driver fails to notice the various alerts provided by the vehicle, it can even contact emergency services or send messages to connected devices.
The patent seen here isn't the first time Ford has attempted to better the lives of dogs. In 2018, the automaker released a kennel with noise-canceling technology plucked straight out of its vehicles. In theory, this should cancel out any frightening sounds (such as fireworks) and provide Bruno with a peaceful night's rest.