Ford has had a lot of interesting off-road patents lately, from a four-wheel steering system to counter the GMC Hummer EV’s Crab Walk to a roof-mounted chair for camping and tailgating. Indeed, some of the ideas are wild, just like the one we found today after lurking around Ford’s recently published patent applications. Did somebody say screen doors?
Yes, it seems like the Dearborn automaker has taken more than a cursory look at adding retractable screens to its vehicles with removable doors and roof panels… like the Bronco. The system—as its name, "SCREEN DEPLOYABLE ACROSS OPENING IN VEHICLE BODY," indicates—is pretty simple. If the doors and roof panels are removed, the driver can push a button on a touchscreen and screens stored on spring-loaded spools will quickly extend with help from some chains and an electric motor. Easy, right?
The patent app notes that the system would have logic to determine whether the roof panels and doors have been removed before the screens would become available to deploy. Once it’s clear the system is ready to use, chains located in the pillars will pull them down across the door openings.
In terms of why someone might want screen doors on a truck like the Bronco, Ford gives only one real reason: safety. It might be nice for other purposes, but the document states that in case of an off-road accident, the screens’ spools are equipped with pyrotechnic devices to extend them across the door openings very quickly. This is assumedly to keep passengers inside the vehicle and ensure no loose limbs are put in harm's way. They would probably be relatively easy to cut through or retract after they do their job so that they don't just trap people in the vehicle, but the document doesn't really address that.
Other, more pleasant uses of the screens aren’t explicitly stated, though a Bronco Everglades with this system might be able to keep some bugs out while still keeping the doors off. Likewise, a screen could prevent any kicked-up gravel or other loose objects on a trail from impacting the passengers in a vehicle while still maintaining most of the open-air experience.
Somewhat similar systems are already used on luxury cars as privacy shades for the windows. Those shades obviously don't cover the entire door opening, though, and nor are they intended primarily as a safety feature like Ford’s patent application indicates this system is.
As with other patents, this could be nothing more than a quick application in an attempt to protect an idea, and not an actual statement of production intent. That being said, it actually seems like a pretty interesting idea, and one that would certainly be a neat option in a market that’s getting more and more saturated with off-road trims. I mean, hey—they put screen doors on houses. Why not cars?
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