The Honda Ridgeline's bed speaker appears to have been a source of inspiration for Ford.
Ford is taking a page out of the Honda Ridgeline's book and is looking to turn exterior body panels into outdoor speakers. According to a patent filed with the USPTO, Ford has found a way to turn the spare wheel cover on the back of an SUV into a speaker system, letting you enjoy music in the great outdoors when you're out camping with your friends.
The patent, discovered by CarBuzz, is relatively simple in nature. The premise is based upon a plastic or similar hard shell spare wheel cover - the kind Mercedes is using as a new G-Class-inspired suitcase design. Presumably, this would be sold as an accessory for your Ford Bronco Raptor, which doesn't come with a wheel cover as standard. The hard shell cover would then have a solid outer ring and a slightly flexible panel set within this ring. The inside of the panel would house what Ford calls an 'exciter' that could vibrate the cover at various frequencies, turning what appears to be a simple body panel into a giant speaker.
By separating the cover into an outer shell, a fixed ring, and an inner panel, these surfaces could be made of different materials. The primary reason is that the vibrating panel would benefit from being made of material with greater resonance, while the outer structure of the wheel cover would need to be robust and resistant to flexing and bending. Ford stipulates the center panel could either be made of metal or plastic, but in another embodiment, might be made of fiber-reinforced sheet molding compound (SMC).
If it's the latter, we hope Ford ensures the covers are made to a higher standard than the Bronco's hard-top, which was manufactured from SMC and has suffered from quality problems since launch.
In addition to an exciter, the cover would also have a temperature sensor, as the flexibility of the primary skin/panel would be affected by temperature and, for example, if it got too hot, too much power and vibration could result in it rupturing.
If you're thinking at this point that this is a stupid idea, you need to remember what the base concept of a speaker is - typically a vibrating membrane that is able to generate sound waves by its movement. This spare wheel cover is nothing more than that same concept in a robust format.
This same principle has been applied to the Honda Ridgeline before, where Honda engineers equipped an exciter under the composite truck bed that could vibrate and turn the pickup into a party truck with a giant outdoor speaker.
The wheel cover would still be fully functional, and Ford has made provision for multiple connections to keep it powered and receiving an audio feed. There could either be dedicated connectors for the cover or, alternatively, reverse sensors and cameras on the spare cover could share a harness. The fanciest variant is a wireless power supply - likely by wireless induction, which Ford says would be ideal when accessing the spare wheel, as you wouldn't have to disconnect wires.
Ford envisions multiple uses for this invention, not just as a speaker but as an alarm and even as a means of augmenting your driving experience. Certain frequencies can simulate a trumpet horn, which Ford says can then be used as an alarm, while it could also be set to create a buzzing sound to scare away intruders - similar to other audio-visual patents filed by Ford recently.
Alternatively, a small battery within the spare wheel housing could be used to power the alarm in the event someone stole, or attempted to steal, your spare wheel with the cover attached.
Lastly, Ford believes this speaker system could augment off-road driving. In certain driving modes, like the Baja, Mud/Ruts, and Rock Crawl modes of the Bronco Raptor, Ford believes the cover could create a "rugged growling sound" to accentuate the engine noise and augment the exhaust. Ford would even allow owners to customize such a sound.
It may be a gimmick, but cars like the Braptor are lifestyle accessories, so why not have fun with them?
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