Ford is going the extra mile with its autonomous car fleet by putting autonomous vehicle entertainment systems into its self-driving cars.
Just like an in-flight movie can distract plane passengers from long, boring flights, Ford thinks movie projectors in its autonomous cars could benefit and entertain its passengers while they ride to wherever they might be going.
According to Wired, Ford received a patent this month for its autonomous vehicle entertainment system. The system features a projector screen, mounted on the ceiling. The screen rolls down right in front of the windshield of the Ford self-driving car, and passengers can relax and watch just about anything they want to watch while they wait to get to their destinations.
Ford’s patent claims, “The entertainment system controller presents media content on a first display while the vehicle is operating in the autonomous mode and on a second display when the vehicle is operating in a non-autonomous mode.”
Ford CEO Mark Fields said at CES in January that Ford is moving in a new direction, “from being an auto company to an auto and a mobility company.” Ford already has 10 self-driving cars, but has plans to increase that number to 30 self-driving cars. Testing these cars is scheduled later this year in Michigan, Arizona, and California.
Forbes reports that some believe that Ford’s patent for a movie screen inside the car is a bit of a lost cause, because most self-driving cars at this time still need some driver intervention. On the other hand, companies such as Google believe the future holds autonomous cars which will need no driver intervention at all. Some believe autonomous cars drive much better than human drivers.
However, Ford Chief Technology Officer Raj Nair claims that Ford will only have fully self-driving cars in appropriate conditions, such as in smart cities and on the highway at the present time. Other Ford cars will only have assisted autonomous driving options, such as parallel parking or lane correction.
Ford aims to reach customers across the board, instead of a certain limited demographic, according to the Ford CEO. In order to do that, Ford has to make cars which are practical and affordable. The company is not in a hurry to have the first fully autonomous car out on the road.
The future seems to point to autonomous cars being shared instead of being individually owned like the cars of today. Self-driving cars, when shared, provide financial savings and are better for the environment (if the cars are electric). If Ford and other car companies want to stay in the game, they have to look at autonomous cars as a part of the future of transportation.
Only adding certain features of a fully autonomous car may hurt a company rather than help it.
Burns, a former GM executive, said traditional car companies need to plan to change and adapt fully rather than add a little bit of autonomous features here and there.
“In the current automobile system, the challenge the auto companies have is how are they going to find enough resource to meet these aggressive fuel-economy regulations, these new electric vehicle requirements, and still stay in the race against Google, Uber, Apple, Tesla, on self-driving cars? Especially if their approach is to evolve self-driving features that keep the driver in the loop and end up adding more cost to the car. I personally think this is a dead-end for the auto industry. They’re going to have to think differently.”
Ford is taking steps to prepare for the totally autonomous world in transportation, but everyone will have to see what the future holds for Ford.
[Photo by Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images]