After taking on GM's crab walk, Ford's engineers have bettered Rivian's idea too.
The Ford F-150 Lightning is packed with cool tech and capability, but we're learning that Ford has even bigger plans for its first electric pickup. Earlier this month, we learned that Ford had applied to patent its own version of the GMC Hummer's crab walk feature, but now it's looking to develop a Rivian idea too. An exciting document surfaced on the Lightning Owners Forum that shows Ford applied to patent a tank turn feature like Rivian has created, where the truck spins around a center point by rotating the wheels on each axle in different directions. Ford's take seems very similar and even makes provision for using the feature with a smartphone or smartwatch.
Ford applied for the patent in October 2020, but it was only published on April 21. In the document, Ford speaks of using a similar method to Rivian, depicting an electric truck with its front axle reversing the front wheels and the rear axle motors operating in forward motion and vice versa. Alternatively, Ford's "turn manager" would be able to decrease suspension loads on individual wheels, thus reducing traction on specific wheels to create the same vehicle rotating effect. This would naturally be best achieved in a vehicle with air suspension.
Another embodiment of the patent sees both the suspension loads and the drive selection of each wheel altered, with the left wheels turning in one direction and the righthand side wheels reversing in the other.
Another provision made in the patent is for opposite wheels to turn in the same direction. For example, the front left wheel and right rear wheel could be made to rotate forward while the right front and left rear wheels could be powered in reverse, which would make getting out of low-traction scenarios a little easier when you get stuck. Best of all, Ford suggests that this technology could be accessed from in the car, from your smartphone, or even from a smartwatch.
This would make it possible to do some off-roading without a spotter, as you could technically spot yourself while operating the vehicle remotely. Finally, the patent suggests adding an extra pair of rear wheels that could also be individually operated, with the goal again being that of finding traction when it would otherwise be impossible.
Ford mentions explicitly that this patent applies to electric vehicles because of the ability to control each wheel individually, but it'll still likely be some time before we see it on a production-ready vehicle, most likely the Ford F-150 Lightning.