Ford Wants Self-Driving Cars to Also Be Movie Theaters

If you can't drive like McQueen, might as well watch him instead.

When the autonomous car apocalypse finally descends upon us, what will we do with all our newfound free time? Will we take advantage of it to better ourselves—learning new languages, reading the classics, educating ourselves on current events? Will we pursue long-dormant passions, creating the novels and paintings we’d always hoped to make but never could find the time for? Of course not. This is America. We’ll watch TV.

At least, that’s what we’ll be doing if Ford has its way. The automaker has filed a patent for a system that would transform a self-driving car into a mobile movie theater. The patent, originally filed in September 2013 but updated this month, covers “an entertainment system controller configured to determine whether the vehicle is operating in the autonomous mode or a non-autonomous mode and present media content on a first display when the vehicle is operating in the autonomous mode and on a second display, and not the first display, when the vehicle is operating in a non-autonomous mode.” Ford also provided a picture, to help clarify things:


So, what the hell does that mean? Basically, when the car is driving itself, the entire area in front of the driver and passenger will serve as a viewing area for media, via a central-mounted projector mounted on the ceiling, roughly in line with the C-pillars. The patent drawings make it seem like a projection screen will descend from the ceiling, but this is just a proof-of-concept; an actual production version could take a different form, maybe using electrochromic glass that can switch between opaque and transparent for the windshield, and projecting directly on to that.

Obviously, the idea is a while out. The filing suggests drivers may be asked to take manual control in the middle of an autonomous trip, yet the lack of front seats illustrated in self-driving mode would make that difficult. But it’s a patent—it doesn’t have to be production-ready, it’s simply a way for Ford to legally lock down the idea.

There’s no guarantee that Ford will actually build a car like this, either; just look at all the goofy shit Apple has patented over the years. But if the rise of self-driving cars really is inevitable, there are a hell of a lot of worse ways to pass a commute than catching up on Netflix.