If you've ever tried to reach into a three-row SUV that has its third row folded down, you'd know it can be pretty darn difficult to shove or retrieve stuff nestled all the way up there. One of Ford's new patent applications offers an unconventional solution.
One of Ford's 2017 patent applications for a "third-row conveyor load floor" was recently published, and it's fascinating. The system functions exactly the way it's described -- it's a series of conveyor belts built into the cargo area and the third-row seatbacks, and its job is to ferry groceries or cargo from the trunk opening to the open space located amidship.
Instead of relying on a series of complicated additional parts, Ford's solution uses the same motor that folds the third row to power the conveyor belt, putting the whole system together instead of relying on two discrete systems contained in the car. A gearbox ensures that the system only activates the conveyors when it needs to.
It's unclear if the system works in reverse, but it probably should, because if you couldn't reach all the way into the car before the conveyor belt, you probably can't reach in there to retrieve the items the conveyor put in there. Then again, I also have a vignette in my head where somebody activates the conveyor belt and it ends up dumping groceries all over the driveway, so perhaps that won't be a feature after all.
That said, it's important to take this patent application with a grain or two of salt and not assume it will reach production. Automakers routinely apply for technology patents that may very well never end up in car -- by applying for a patent, even though the automaker in question won't use the tech, it prevents competitors from doing so. Nevertheless, the possibility now exists that your next car might come packing conveyor belts.