Many companies are striving towards autonomous driving, however the question remains what to introduce next. Ford Motor Company envisions its autonomous vehicles as mobile movie theaters, with screens and projectors that vanish into the ceiling as passengers take over the wheel, according to a patent issued last week.
The patent, for an “Autonomous Vehicle Entertainment System,” is less interesting for what it describes—a widely anticipated entertainment system for drivers who no longer need to focus on the road—than for what it anticipates: driverless cars that still need drivers.
Other technology leaders, like Google, anticipate driverless cars that do not need human intervention at all—since they drive so much better than humans do. The difference suggests Ford may be headed down what one mobility expert calls “a dead end.”
According to Ford’s patent, ”The entertainment system controller presents media content on a first display while the vehicle is operating in the autonomous mode and on a second display when the vehicle is operating in a non-autonomous mode.”
The patent depicts the first display as a projection screen in the front of the car, covering the windshield (pictured below). When the driver takes over, the screen and projector retract into the ceiling and the presentation shifts to a display integrated within “a dashboard, an instrument cluster, or a rearview mirror.”
The patent suggests in places that a driver may take control mid-trip. For example, the vehicle may be fitted with audible or visual alarms, it says, presumably to alert a potential driver that it’s time to pay attention and drive. But drawings supplied with the patent depict removable front seats—removed in autonomous mode to turn the car into a theater—which suggests passengers would have to decide in advance whether a trip would be driverless or driven.