Auto Tech

Ford's self-leveling cup holder keeps your coffee safe at speed

Is there any problem gimbals can't solve?

US Patent and Trademark Office

It's always a good time when you take a turn too quickly and spill your drink across the center console. Ford's latest patent has a unique way of preventing that from happening.

Ford received a patent for a self-leveling cup holder, or as the patent poetically describes it, a "vehicle beverage holder assembly." The whole point of the system is to prevent a drink from spilling when the vehicle accelerates, decelerates or takes a turn.

It's a little bulky, but it beats cleaning up spilled coffee every day.

US Patent and Trademark Office

The system works thanks to something called a gimbal. Basically, a gimbal allows an object to stay upright even though the gimbal itself might be moving all over the place. If you've ever seen the Steadicam equipment that lets a cameraman move quickly while keeping their camera perfectly stable, you've seen a gimbal in action.

In Ford's case, the gimbal is contained within this new cup holder design. Thus, when the car slams on the brakes or dives into a turn, the gimbal keeps the beverage stable. A cover around the edge of the cup holder can keep dirt and other detritus from getting stuck inside the assembly.

It's pretty darn clever, although it seems like the gimbal system takes up a fair bit more space than your average cup holder. Considering some cars can have eight or more cup holders, perhaps losing one or two in the name of keeping your center console clean wouldn't be the end of the world.

There's no guarantee you'll find a gimbal-equipped cup holder in your next car, though. Automakers regularly patent technologies they'll never use, if only to prevent the competition from going ahead with it. But considering Ford's stable of performance vehicles, there are definitely cars where this tech could be put to good use.