Newly Issued Ford Patent Would Turn Your Future Autonomous Car Into A Mobile Theater

Have you ever found yourself at night behind a large crossover or a minivan with large display screens hanging from the ceiling (usually playing some Disney movie or other child-centric content)? While it provides tiny tots with something to occupy their attention when traveling, the moving images can be somewhat distracting to following motorists. Well, Ford is looking to up the ante and has patented a "autonomous vehicle entertainment system" that truly brings a living room movie experience to your car.

Ford’s patent, which was granted on March 1st, features a large projector screen that unfurls from the ceiling, presumably just ahead of where the top of the windshield meets the roof. The screen extends all the way down to the gearshift lever, which would put it roughly at the level of the front seat bottoms.

The patent drawing shows a crossover-type vehicle, so in the case of, let’s say a Ford Edge, the screen would measure roughly 3’ x 5’ when fully unfurled. The front seats are stowed, folded up against the dashboard/steering wheel behind the screen when the screen is extended.

ford patent

A projector mounted at the rear of the vehicle in the ceiling would beam content onto the screen when the vehicle is driven in fully autonomous mode. When a human driver is ready to take over for the computer, the screen would retract back into the roof, and the “the entertainment system may be configured to present media content via a dashboard, an instrument cluster, or a rearview mirror” according to the patent filing.

While technologically possible, playing back media content in any of the three aforementioned areas in the patent while a person is driving sounds like a disaster in the making. Today’s drivers can barely text and drive without wrapping their vehicle around a tree, so playing back content via a dashboard display or a rearview mirror is just asking for trouble.

Playing content on a large screen while the vehicle’s computer is autonomously driving you from place to place definitely sounds like a more plausible alternative; especially for long trips. However, autonomous vehicle technology would have to advance by leaps and bounds to make computer-aided driving with absolutely no input from the driver (and no human eyes on the road) a reality.

Companies like Google have definitely made significant progress in recent years, but we’re still nowhere close to Minority Report or I, Robot when it comes to self-driving vehicles.