Now that some seats offer 30-way adjustability, automakers might be forced to think beyond buttons and switches, but Ford's patent application takes it in a strange direction.
Ford applied for a patent for voice-controlled power seats. The patent points out that while the current system of buttons and switches on the seat's side works well enough, as we move into super-adjustable seats like , trying to jam all that into a set of switches is getting much more difficult.
Thus, this system would replace the old modus operandi with a touchscreen, a microphone and the user's voice. A controller would look to voice and the touchscreen and initiate single-axis movement upon receiving a certain trigger. It'd stop in much the same way. It could accept commands as specific as "move lumbar support up," according to the patent application.
That controller would have to act fast, though. Even being one or two notches away from your ideal spot can make driving weird or uncomfortable, so if there's a second-long pause between you saying "Stop" and the seat actually stopping, that's a lot of extra movement. Presumably, you could just tap the screen to stop the seat, which would be a bit more accurate.
While that might sound annoying, Roadshow's own Tim Stevens brought up a way in which it could make current power-seat systems even more capable. Right now, if you want to store settings for later recalling, you're limited to two or three buttons. Using a voice-based system could theoretically let you store way more seat settings than before, so if both you and your significant other have seat preferences for highway driving versus back-road blasting, you wouldn't need a thousand memory buttons on the door panel or seat.
Understanding seat controls can be tough if you're not used to a certain way of doing it. When I drove, a light touch of any out-of-view seat adjustment switch would bring up a screen that highlighted what part of the seat that button moves. It's a clever way to ensure you're moving the parts you want to move, but it didn't let you adjust the seat itself through the touchscreen. Ford's system builds upon that idea in a big way, and while many patents never make it to production, Ford's voice-controlled seat system seems pretty feasible for mass-market adoption.
(Hat tip to Bozi Tatarevic!)