[Editor’s Note: The drone would be used to map the surrounding area.]
This post originally appeared on http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2016/12/09/ford-patents-include-self-driving-car-drone/95205150/.
Ford has registered 1,442 patents this year, most among the largest automakers, including one for a self-driving car that has its own drone.
Based on data compiled by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Toyota was granted 1,368 so far this year, followed by General Motors at 1,131 and Honda at 1,011. Ford had 25% more patents than in the previous year.
Raj Nair, executive vice president for product development and chief technology officer, attributed the increase to the push to develop more semi- and fully autonomous technologies as Ford and its competitors position themselves for shared-vehicle mobility.
The Dearborn automaker was granted 1,700 more patents in other countries, bringing the total to more than 3,100 patents granted worldwide this year.
Among some of the brighter ideas:
•Self-driving cars with drones. Tony Lockwood and Joe Stanek for an invention that equips autonomous vehicles with drones.
The system deploys a drone from an autonomous vehicle to map the surrounding area beyond what vehicle sensors can see. Passengers can control the drone using the car’s infotainment or navigation system.
Mercedes-Benz showed off a similar idea in September, using the drone for parcel delivery from a van.
•Electric wheelchair for a car. Ford’s eChair could make life easier for wheelchair users. Developed by engineers at Ford’s Lommel proving grounds in Belgium, Gunther Cuypers, Robin Celis, and David Longin, the lightweight electric-powered eChair can load itself into a car.
•Water fountain in car. There’s also the idea called On-the-Go H2O, which puts a water fountain next to the cupholders in the car. It was developed by Ford engineers Doug Martin and John Rollinger, using water from condensation that is then filtered and pumped into a faucet located inside the car to provide drinking water.
Through this week about 5,500 Ford employees submitted invention disclosures, of which more than 2,200 were from first-time inventors.