Ford’s boffins must be getting a little tired of electric cars and autonomous driving tech, as the Blue Oval’s finest minds have turned their substantial brains toward engineering some less conventional innovations – a few of which might actually catch on.
At this week’s "Further with Ford" event – an online talkfest featuring announcements and discussions about industry trends – those who watched till the end were treated to a range of unusual concepts.
Under the banner “Cult of Disruption Innovation”, the ideas included a phone app that gives passenger control over some vehicle settings and can translate between driver and passenger (perfect for taxis and ride-shares), a robotic cargo-carrying ‘hover board’ that stows in the boot, and an in-car water dispenser that harvests H20 from the car’s air-conditioning system.
Got a thirst to know more? Let’s start with the water dispenser. Ford Powertrains Controls Engineer Doug Martin once read about a billboard in Peru, which had a device that captured moisture from the environment and condensed it into 9500 litres of water in three months for townspeople to drink.
That sparked his idea for ‘On the Go H2O’, which captures the condensation generated by a vehicle’s air-conditioning system to create potable water. Martin’s idea was to simply catch the excess water in a pan and pump it through a filter up to the centre console where a tap fills a glass in the cup holder. Stuck on a tollway with a thirst that will floor a camel? Flick the tap and voila!
Martin likes to think this could be of benefit in developing countries, but we’re thinking it could make Ford a buck in the 4WD market, with the water pumped straight to a tank.
It could also work if hydrogen fuel cell cars catch on, as they too produce drinkable water as a by-product.
PHONE AS CAR
Another novel idea is ‘Phone as Car’, developed by Oleg Gusikhin, Technical Leader of Ford’s Advanced Connected Services.
Gusikhin was inspired by a trip in a Beijing taxi when he was unable to communicate with the driver to ask him to turn on the air-conditioning.
The phone app features a built-in translation function that turns text from the passenger into audio in the driver's preferred language via the car’s Ford SYNC infotainment system. The driver’s response is translated into a text for the passenger.
The app would also allow the driver or passenger to audibly control certain functions of the car such as air-conditioning and infotainment. Gusikhin also sees it as a way for people to communicate with driverless cars of the future – as long as it’s a Ford.
So you drive your Ford into town but can’t park close to your ultimate destination. You have a heavy box to carry or simply can’t be arsed walking. What to do? Simple, go to the boot and get Carr-E, which looks like a cross between one of those deceptively-named, non-hovering and somewhat combustible ‘hoverboards’ and a Roomba.
The brainchild of systems engineer Kilian Vas, Carr-E is designed to extend your mobility. While its ability to help with heavy-ish loads seems a good idea it’s doubtful it will catch on as personal transport. It’s slower than walking pace and would be difficult for anyone with a physical disability to use. That said these are early days, and as dorky as it is, Carr-E is at least a little more ‘on trend’ than a fold-up pushbike.