The Blue Oval seems to be preparing an onslaught of new off-road-friendly products for vehicles like the Explorer and F-150.
Early this month, the United States Patent and Trademark Office published a new patent from Ford pertaining to a powered roof rail accessory system. CarBuzz discovered the patent this week, following two others we uncovered late last month that concerned a new type of slidable crossbar with a winch and a robotic arm. This new invention is not an add-on for the crossbar, but it is similarly focused on enhancing practicality and making outdoorsy adventures easier to undertake.
This new design is for a lockable system that bolts onto the preexisting roof racks of a vehicle like an Explorer or an F-150, providing the roof racks with access to power for a world of electrically operated accessories.
The patent documentation describes that the system would feature a lockable element that, when in its locked position, closes a circuit and provides the roof racks with a source of electricity, ideal for powering items like LED roof lights or camping gear. This means somebody else can't connect to your rack at the camping site without the key. The connector that would give the roof rack assembly power could be the same as that for a trailer hitch, while the connectors for the accessories that connect to the roof racks would likely be less bulky.
The patent also makes provision for remote control, either using the touchscreen interface inside the vehicle or a smart device app.
The filing also indicates that the system could be installed with relative ease, so this would not be the sort of accessory requiring you to visit the dealer each time you want it on the car. Roof racks on a car tend to add to wind noise and can hamper fuel efficiency, so you wouldn't necessarily want them on your vehicle at all times.
Ford may or may not introduce this as part of a new range accessories in the near future. Still, it seems to believe that this patent design has other potential applications, noting that this powered rack assembly need not be limited to accessories on the upper part of a vehicle. Perhaps this could form the basis for bed-mounted accessories on civilian trucks.
Alternatively, it could facilitate specific add-ons that park rangers, mobile service technicians, or firefighters might need. Either way, it seems that startups like Rivian, which created the Camp Kitchen and Gear Tunnel, may have inspired legacy automakers to consider novel ways of making future products more capable than ever before.
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