Ford Motor Co. received a U.S. patent on its plans for an “autonomous vehicle with reconfigurable seats” earlier this month.
The seats can swivel and fold all while the vehicle is in motion, and the steering wheel can even retract into the dashboard to create more space in the vehicle cabin.
Among the available configurations is a rolling living room format, in which the front seats can rotate backwards 180 degrees to face the back row.
The front seats can also be folded down and used as a footrest for backseat passengers.
Photo credit: Bloomberg
This reconfigurable seating is similar to the interior design of Mercedes-Benz’s futuristic autonomous concept unveiled earlier this year at the International CES in Las Vegas.
The four seats in the Mercedes concept can also rotate to face each other in a lounge-like setting.
The Ford patent, submitted in November, states that autonomous vehicles will eventually only require passengers to select a destination, allowing passengers to focus on non-driving activities mid-travel.
This plan for a reimagined vehicle cabin is Ford’s most recent step in autonomous vehicle development, but it does not appear the automaker will be offering the technology and design laid out in the patent anytime soon.
“We submit patents on innovative ideas as a normal course of business,” Ford spokesman Said Deep wrote in an email. “Patent submissions help protect our new ideas but do not necessarily indicate future business or product plans.”
While Ford is moving forward with autonomous technology development, it still lags behind many of its competitors.
In the luxury segment alone, Audi, Mercedes and BMW are already gearing up to offer advanced autonomous features within the next year.
Ford is making moves to catch up. In June, the company said it would move its self-driving technology development to its new advanced engineering operations in Silicon Valley as it moved into the advanced engineering stage of autonomous-vehicle development.
Engineers at the Silicon Valley facility are part of Ford’s new global autonomous-vehicle team.
The Business Insider web site reported on the patent Wednesday.
You can reach Nora Naughton at email@example.com.