Ford's Latest Patent Previews Driving a Car With Smartphone

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【Summary】Ford has come up with an innovative way to steer an autonomous vehicle with a smartphone, including giving consumers the option of interacting with a virtual steering wheel or simply tilting the device.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Oct 09, 2018 3:00 PM PT
Ford's Latest Patent Previews Driving a Car With Smartphone

The rise of autonomous vehicles is giving designers free reign to pen striking exteriors and interiors. Sure, modern semi-autonomous vehicles on the road today are based off of regular vehicles, like Waymo's Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans. But the next generation of self-driving cars that can actually ferry passengers around autonomously will have much more interesting designs, filled with sensors, screens, and cameras. One thing that will be missing from autonomous vehicles, though, will be steering wheels.  

Say Goodbye To Steering Wheels, Hello To Smartphones

At the beginning of the year, General Motors unveiled a self-driving vehicle that didn't have a steering wheel, just seats and a simple dashboard, pointing toward what the future may look like for the passengers. While that vehicle would rely solely on sensors and computers to get around, Ford's latest patent, which CarBuzz first found, reveals that the automaker could go down the route of making driving a game in the future.

For anyone that's familiar with racing games on a smartphone, Ford's patent that was recently published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that's called "Non-Autonomous Steering Modes" may sound familiar. While there's more than one mode, the gist of the patent is that Ford is envisioning a future where owners can use their smartphones to physically steer the vehicle.

A passenger inside the vehicle with a touchscreen device – while that sounds like a smartphone, a modern tablet could also do the trick – responds to a request from the vehicle to become the driver, there are two things that can happen. The mobile device and vehicle perform a "handshake" to sync up, giving users access to the "First Autonomous Steering Mode." Essentially, what the mode does is make sure that the car's wheels are pointing straight ahead and marks the current orientation of the device. Then, the two sync up the device's accelerometer and gyroscope to figure out just how much the front wheels should move when the smartphone is tilted.

There's a "Second Autonomous Steering Mode" that displays a virtual steering wheel on the mobile device. Once again, the front wheels are synced with the virtual wheel to ensure that any movement actually physically moves the car's tires.

The Car Still Has Some Control

While Ford's patent gives owners the ability to steer the car through their smartphone, the vehicle "controls one or two of the propulsion, braking, and steering of the host vehicle." What the patent does, is give consumers the ability to take over if they don't feel comfortable with the way the self-driving car is driving. It's a smart piece of tech, especially as consumers have stated that they aren't too keen on taking a ride in autonomous vehicles after accidents involving the machines have risen.  

As the outlet points out, any mobile device with a touchscreen display, gyroscope, accelerometer, and processor will work. Also, the technology is clearly in its early stages. But this is Ford's way of staying ahead of the competition and showing that while it may not have the same autonomous program as General Motors, it's still looking toward the future.

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