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Ford Has a Crazy Idea That Lets You Drive Off-Road While Standing Up

Ford's new patent could let you drive standing up with your head sticking out the roof.

If you’ve ever driven a tricky off-road trail, you’ll know the value of standing up and poking your head over the windscreen for a better look at the terrain. Ford apparently has had the bright idea that you should be able to drive while doing so, and it’s created some notes on how that could possibly work.

According to CarBuzz, Ford’s patent shows a driver of a Bronco standing up with their head out the top of the vehicle. This is a great way to get a view of the wheels and any obstacles ahead, but it’s not a great position for driving. Ford’s idea is to build controls to make driving from this position safe and practical. In a topless vehicle like the Bronco, it would let one drive while standing like a tank commander in the cupola. Cool, right?

Capacitive touch controls in the windshield header could enable control of the vehicle from a standing position. USPTO

Per the patent filing, the system intends to use sensors to detect when the driver has adopted a standing position. This will then enable a secondary set of driving controls for use while upright. The driver can then guide the vehicle while standing up and taking in the full view of the situation.

Ford’s patent suggests that the windshield header could host the secondary controls for driving while upright. Capacitive touch pads could be used to control vehicle speed, torque output, or even steering. Naturally, when driving standing up, Ford intends for the vehicle to be limited to a safe regime of operation. Damping acceleration and braking is one method that would reduce the chance of the standing driver being jerked around excessively. Similarly, vehicle speed would be limited to just a few miles per hour.

A flowchart explaining the general theory of operation of Ford’s upright driving system. USPTO

Detecting a driver’s presence is key to the system, lest the driver falls out when the going gets rough. Ford notes that ultrasonic sensors, cameras, touch sensors, or other tools could be used to ensure the driver is still in place. It’s not hard to imagine some kind of pull-cord system akin to a jet ski’s safety lanyard being used, either.

It’s easy to imagine such a system being a killer app for those into rock crawling and other difficult off-road disciplines. At the same time, driving while standing up does come with some caveats. It’s not something we’d want to try on a steep ascent, for example, as the consequences of falling out of the vehicle could be severe.

Keep an eye out for this technology to debut on Ford’s premiere off-road vehicles sometime in the future. It’s by no means guaranteed—it is just a patent filing, after all—but it could certainly spice up future Raptor and Wildtrak models. The Bronco would be an ideal application by virtue of its roofless design. Trucks with appropriate sunroofs could follow down the track.

It bears noting that a traditional solution to this problem does exist; it’s called using a spotter. However, for those drivers with no friends, no ability to take instructions, or simply a rich individualistic streak, it’s clear Ford’s proposal has value. Plus, driving standing up just sounds like fun.

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