Ford files a patent application to help sniff out stinky ride-hailing cars

The tech would let you pick which smells bug you and set thresholds accordingly.

Kyle Hyatt Former news and features editor
Kyle Hyatt (he/him/his) hails originally from the Pacific Northwest, but has long called Los Angeles home. He's had a lifelong obsession with cars and motorcycles (both old and new).
Kyle Hyatt
2 min read

The system would use environmental sensors in the car to help weed out your particular car smell bugbears.


If you've used ride-hailing services on even a semiregular basis, the odds are good that you've come across at least one driver that has seemingly gone nose-deaf from using way too much air freshener. It's brutal, especially on those occasions when the smell is so strong that it clings to your clothes even after getting out of the car.

According to a patent application filed on April 9, Ford is working on a solution to this problem. Ford's application asserts that while current ride-hailing and taxi services offer you basic information about the car you're getting in -- color, make, model, license plate number, etc. -- they don't currently offer anything about how the car smells.

That sounds like a small problem, and for most of us it is, but what if you're on the way to a meeting and you have an unfortunate allergy to patchouli, and so you get to your meeting with puffy eyes and a runny nose. No good, right? What if the driver decided to go a little crazy with the 7-11 hot food case for lunch and is now paying the price? That's some valuable information, don't you think?

Ford's system would use an environmental sensor to determine the nature of the odors inside a vehicle and would compare those odors and their concentrations to a list of thresholds set by the ride-hailing customer. For example, I have zero tolerance for Black Ice air fresheners, so if I call for a car and the sensor detects that chemical profile in the car it wants to send to me, it'll change up.

Of course, this opens up some questions about privacy and ethics. If a ride-hailing driver picks up a customer who just hosed down with Curve for Men like it was prom night 2001, would that driver be able to refuse that ride? Would the driver be penalized for a strong odor, or lose business for having that smell in the car? Technology is a double-edged sword, is it not?

It's important to point out that many patents and patent applications never go on to be developed further or put into production, so it's unlikely that we'll ever have the freedom to choose our Lyft's smell, or conversely, be stuck with Big Brother's actual nose shoved into our business, metaphorically speaking.

Ford didn't immediately respond to Roadshow's request for comment.

Check out the 2021 Ford F-150's gigantic touchscreen

See all photos
Watch this: Ford Raptor vs. Jeep Gladiator Mojave: Desert running beasts