The Blue Oval could add a robotic arm and multifunctional accessories to your next pickup.
In a pair of new patent filings published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, CarBuzz has learned that Ford is developing a novel sliding crossbar designed to make it easier to load heavy objects and secure them safely.
The first patent covers the basic design and operation of the invention, while the second expands on potential applications and accessories by introducing a robotic arm to the package.
Ford has gone into a lot of detail in its exploration of potential applications and operation methods. The patent makes provision for manual and electronic operation and could be made simply or in a complex manner, depending on how many functions a user would need. In our mind, these two patents could lead to a whole new range of pickup accessories.
The filing suggests this sliding crossbar could be removable, so we're already off to a good start on the practicality front. The device would be positioned on rails along the bed walls, with these rails reinforced and protected to maintain smooth operation.
For trucks that have walls along their inner beds, Ford says it would be able to retrofit the rails and prevent damage, so this new crossbar could be fitted to future trucks as well as those currently on sale, like today's F-150 and Maverick. The sliding crossbar could be electrically operated or slid manually, but based on the potential accessories this device could incorporate, we'd be inclined to go with the electronic system.
Assuming henceforth that we're working with an electronically actuated embodiment of the invention, additional features beyond portability could be incorporated. Ford suggests fitting the crossbar with a camera and/or a radar that could be used to scan the bed. With this, the bar could automatically position itself at the highest point of whatever is loaded in the truck, enabling one to secure an item safely. In addition, a winch could be attached to the bar for easier loading, and this could be slidable from side to side, again maximizing practicality and security.
Since you have a camera system on the bar, it would be wasteful not to include a lighting system, so Ford has mentioned just that. The Blue Oval also notes that the crossbar could be made compatible with BoxLink accessories, and the crossbar and its connected accessories could be operated from either a smart device or the vehicle's infotainment interface.
As part of the second patent, Ford indicates that one could use the camera/radar to scan and identify loads. That's important because the second patent introduces a remarkable accessory, namely a robotic arm that could be used to hoist items into the bed, and the optical recognition system would tell the vehicle operator if a scanned item can be lifted by the arm or not.
Ford's patent also suggests a higher level of accuracy with the user's implementation of a laser pointer, which the crossbar's optical system could detect as a means of locking on to the item that must be picked up and loaded.
After the system has evaluated the load, the user can look at scanned images. If the arm incorrectly identifies the next item to be loaded, the user could indicate the correct item by circling or touching the item on their screen.
Once the robotic arm correctly identifies the item to be loaded, it could then be adjusted left or right to ensure it picks the item up securely. All of these functions could also be activated using voice commands. Presumably, the robotic arm could perform all these actions in reverse when unloading.
We come across plenty of futuristic technology every day, but this looks like technology worth bringing to the market. The only question is what it would cost the buyer. Fortunately, FordPass points can now be used for accessories.
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