By on March 14, 2017

Ford Sliding Platform, [Image: Ford Motor Company]

Because of Ford’s new patent, we may soon wonder how we ever got anything out of our truck beds.

Ford has filed for a patent for a “sliding platform” in the bed of pickup trucks. The platform will be powered by a drive assembly, labeled an electric machine, coupled to the engine and transmission, possibly from a hybrid F-150.

Ford has already announced that a hybrid F-150 is in the works for 2020, but hopefully we get to see this contraption sooner than that.

The tray will rest on two rails with rollers to extend and, uh… pull out a heavy load at any angle.

The platform could also be useful as a work table, and will be adequate in a variety of positions, thanks to a pin that can lock it in place.

Ford Sliding Platform, [Image: Ford Motor Company]

It will also be equipped with a proximity sensor to prevent the embarrassing misfortune of extending at the wrong time, or if an object is in front of it.

The ease could make accessing equipment that much faster in an emergency situation, and as The Drive points out, emergency teams have been using technology like this since before Ford’s sliding platform conception.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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54 Comments on “Ford Patents New Electric Slid(ing Pickup Bed)...”


  • avatar
    bunkie

    Filing for a patent and actually *getting* patent are two different things.

    Also, this is an old idea that has been produced by various aftermarket firms which might well qualify as prior art.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      My brother has one of those manual fabric roller loaders in his old Ford truck. It’s kind of slow but it does work well.
      https://www.realtruck.com/load-handler-truck-bed-unloader/

    • 0 avatar
      Chocolatedeath

      Ford could say that none of them are actually build into a vehicle. JS

    • 0 avatar

      The patent application doesn’t really reference prior art beyond mentioning that manually operated sliding beds have been made. Looking it over my guess is that what distinguishes it from prior art is the fact that it’s powered, the method of how they use a retractable pin to allow the actuator to put the platform in two different positions, and the use of proximity sensors to prevent it from hitting stuff.

      Caveat: I am not a patent attorney. I successfully applied for a patent about 40 years ago, writing the application myself, and I recently self-filed an application to patent my electric harmonica.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        I would assume Ford will slide the actual bed floor. without raising it much compared to the low floors that make pickups pickups. As an OEM, they can modify frame rails etc. to make this work. Not a second floor sitting several inches higher than the built in one, the way aftermarket providers are currently doing it.

        With the aftermarket kits, the sliding “floor” is almost as high as a flatbed. If that’s all Ford is delivering, they are basically vindicating those annoying Aussies and their “utes are better” chants :)

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Agreed. I’ve seen aftermarket variations on this.

    • 0 avatar
      Jagboi

      “Filing for a patent and actually *getting* patent are two different things.”

      Very different! I’ve spent a long time working in patents, so we will have to wait and see what comes out the other end of examination.

      That being said, Ford isn’t stupid and will have proper IP people to write and prosecute this. They could have filed this for many reasons, one of which could be to create prior art and they have no intention of ever obtaining a patent. However, it also prevents anybody else from getting one too, so they could use the idea without worrying about being sued for patent infringement.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Imagine the frictious and grungy crap that would accumulate in those channels.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      I have the same thought immediately after seeing this. I just put a pathway in my backyard using pavers and river rocks after two trips to Lowes. Now my Dakota’s bed STILL has tiny rocks in 200 miles later.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      My thought exactly. I was thinking of misc rock & gravel whose diameter is just right to cause that bed to bind as it passes over them, like a marble under a closet door.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      See, now, you TTAC techie guys don’t suffer from the CAD/Grunt Divide and saw this downfall right away.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Get a Ram.

      Ford’s hammer that fits all nails, is one that makes all things slide and telescope. Perhaps due to Mulally era hubris of the “We’re aerospace guys. Not a bunch of hicks. We can make things that don’t work, work” kind.

      Ram realizes they are Italian at heart, with all that means for quality and longevity of what they build. So they limit themselves to things that pivot instead. And to what worked in the original Power Wagon. Generally much simpler, and with fewer possible points of failure.

  • avatar
    AlfaRomasochist

    Sliding things in and out of a pickup bed isn’t really that big a problem, is it? The bigger challenge is getting something big and heavy off the ground and into the bed in the first place.

    My neighbor inherited a 1/2 ton Chevy with a Tommy Lift tailgate. He let me borrow it to move a piece of woodworking equipment and it. was. awesome. The only thing better than having a pickup with a lift gate is having a neighbor with one who’ll let you borrow it now and then.

  • avatar
    TR4

    Problem: it’s hard to get stuff out of the bed because of today’s disfunctionally styled pickups with too high bed sides.

    Ford’s solution: electric sliding bed platform

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      Heh… like back-up cameras to see out of bunker bodies; engineers trying to fix what stylists ruin.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @TR4 – when do people lift heavy objects over the box sides?

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Who said anything about •heavy• objects. Truck sides are so high today you can’t even reach the floor with both feet on the ground.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          “Truck sides are so high…”

          That’s what don’t understand. Who puts things where they’re out of reach?

          It reminds me of a girl I dated. Interestingly, everything in her cupboards was on the bottom, nothing on the inside shelves. Guess why? She was just 4’11” (she claimed to be 5′).

          But the point is, why toss small items where you KNOW they’re “out of reach”?? Love to aggravate yourself?? Born to COMPLAIN??? Smaller tools, supplies, etc, should go in a bin inside the cab, or if in the bed, a container you *can* reach, like a milk crate.

          Do I have to teach you absolutely everything??? But guess what? They now make running boards runnning from wheel arch to wheel arch. Amazing what rocket science can do!!!

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Dude, you can’t even reach a “milk crate” over the side of one of these modern full-sized trucks. That’s the bloomin’ point!
            Unless, maybe, you’re one of those seven-foot-tall giants, that is.
            I’m only average sized and I can’t even see the deck on the near side of the truck with both feet on the ground. I like my ’97 Ranger because I can see everything and reach far enough in that I can grab a pencil lying just inboard of the wheel well on either side.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            It would require you to keep pencils elsewhere. *Oh MY*

            You’re a bright guy, I’m sure you’d adapt just fine. “Prince Boots”? “Platform Sneakers”?

            A milk crate to stand on?? You’re making a big deal over nothing. It’s fine if you’re not, but if you were halfway into fullsize pickups, you’d figure out how to live with their specs/dimensions.

            1st, keep your pencils in your pocket protector.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            It ain’t ‘nothing’, DM. When I was a kid I used to be able to step onto a step-side Ford and reach into the bed. Now as an adult I simply cannot. Whether you care or not, a lot of people DO care and want smaller trucks. The simple fact that Ford is introducing this electrically-operate bed slider says that even they are aware their trucks are too hard to access any more.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            ” When I was a kid I used to be able to step onto a step-side Ford and reach into the bed.”

            1. It’s Flareside. Stepside is Chevy, Fenderside is GMC, Utiline is Dodge.

            2. Apples to apples comparison: Were you stepping on the ground, or on the step? Was the truck 4×2 or 4×4? How tall were the tires on that old Ford? How big were the wheels, and the brakes within those wheels? How about the rear axle? How much vertical space did the suspension take up? All of these are larger on newer pickups, so even when the bedsides remain the same height (in a Chevy, for example), stepover height increases.

            “The simple fact that Ford is introducing this electrically-operate bed slider[…]”

            Patenting != introducing.

            I’m not saying you shouldn’t care about stepover height or wanting smaller pickups, but they’ve gotten taller for reasons besides simply aesthetics.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Are you trying to tell me that in 1954 Ford called their trucks “Flare-side” trucks? No, Flare side by Ford showed up in the late 80s/early 90s. Prior to that, all those with the step between the cab and the fender were called step-side trucks. I was a child of the 60s, not the 90s.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            This sliding deck, Man Step, and the Super Duty’s lower sides, are good for all users, not just the elderly, handicapped, midget, etc.

            No doubt Ford is targeting the aging population, but the Vulpii demographic want too much. They have to be “trucks” first/foremost.

            Fullsize pickups can’t turn into ’80s 2wd mini-trucks, sorry! Fleets, commercial users, weekend warriors, etc, all demand purdy much what they are today.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Then why did a certain pest control company buy the last several days of Rangers manufactured for their fleet? Clearly, commercial users wanted the minimum needed to perform the task and to be very blunt, the F-150 was gross overkill. They use full-sized pickups today because they simply have no choice in the matter. while some other fleets have gone to Transit and similar to get away from the huge size.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            “Are you trying to tell me that in 1954 Ford called their trucks “Flare-side” trucks? No, Flare side by Ford showed up in the late 80s/early 90s. Prior to that, all those with the step between the cab and the fender were called step-side trucks.”

            [Five minutes of Googling later…]

            If Flareside was not used by Ford to refer to their narrow beds until the 1992 fiberglass models, then please explain the use of the term in this advertisement from 1957:

            http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/FMC%20Trucks-Vans/1957%20Trucks%20and%20Vans/1957%20Ford
            >%20Trucks%20Brochure/1957%20Ford%20Trucks-04-05.jpg

            Or this brochure from 1966: http://www.lov2xlr8.no/brochures/ford/66pick/66pick.html

            1968: http://www.lov2xlr8.no/brochures/ford/68p/68p.html

            1969: http://www.lov2xlr8.no/brochures/ford/69pic/69pic.html

            1970: http://www.lov2xlr8.no/brochures/ford/70pick/70pick.html

            1973: http://www.lov2xlr8.no/brochures/ford/73fpi/bilder/6.jpg

            1974: http://www.lov2xlr8.no/brochures/ford/74fp/74fp.html

            1975: http://www.lov2xlr8.no/brochures/ford/75pif/75pif.html

            1976: http://www.lov2xlr8.no/brochures/ford/76fp/76fp.html

            1977: http://www.lov2xlr8.no/brochures/ford/77fp/77fp.html (Note that short bed Flaresides were not made from 1973-76.)

            And the last hurrah of the wood-bottomed, steel-sided Flareside in 1987: http://www.oldcarbrochures.org/index.php/NA/FMC-Trucks-Vans/1987-Trucks-Vans/1987-Ford-F-Series-Pickups-Brochure/1987-Ford-F-Series-Pickup-02

            AFAICT, they only made them until they ran out of wooden beds.

            Before 1957, the first year of the straight Styleside beds, there was no specific term used for the narrow beds (besides “Pickup” or “Express”) because there was no other bed to distinguish it from. Had you seen fit to mention that the original pickup was a ’54, we would not have to have this discussion.

            “while some other fleets have gone to Transit and similar to get away from the huge size.”

            Not sure if you know this, but the Transit is quite a large van, larger in many ways than the Econoline. The Transit /Connect/ is the small one.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            The people I talk to pretty much call a Transit a Transit, whether it’s a ‘Connect’ or not.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            That’s all well and good, but do you have anything to say regarding Flaresides?

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            As in…? Flaresides are so rare around here as to be nonexistent. I thought I read where Ford dropped it some years back, which makes it irrelevant to the conversation.

            Now, if they’re still making them…

            Not that I would buy one, unless it was a Ranger extended cab…

            Hmmmm…. I had replied to you on the Flareside comment–giving you credit for a find I had not made after a similar search. (Look up Ford Step side and you get pictures of Fords from the 30s through the 80s.) I never saw a brochure until you posted it.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          “Truck sides are so high today you can’t even reach the floor with both feet on the ground.”

          And that is a bad thing?

          That thing on the back is called a tailgate. You access the contests of the box via that device.

          The height of the box sides from the ground is a function of several things like 4×4 versus 4×2, cargo ratings, and tire size.

          My current F150 has tires that are considerably bigger than the stock ones on my 1990 F250. Payload is comparable too.

          The box sides have gotten higher even when measured from the box floor but so what? I have zero problem with it.

          I have to agree with DenverMike – you shouldn’t have loose tools or items in the box anyways.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Up to a point, higher is better. I do like the style/look of the bed height lining up with the window sills, and yeah I can’t reach small things left in the bed.

          I’ve got bigger than stock tires too, plus “leveling kit”, but I’m usually parked on uneven surfaces, so I’m likely standing in a low spot/depression, reaching over it to get things, especially at the trail head, camping, job sites, random backyards, etc.

          I also like the security of expensive power tools (generator, compressor, welder), supplies, gear, that thieves can’t see. It looks like any empty pickup (or one of BAFO’s “75%”ers) parked rows away from all others, across the road from the diner, etc.

          If it was a big deal for me, elderly, disabled, obese, midget, etc, then I’d fix the situation.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Running boards are a great addition. They reduce clearance off-road but everywhere else they aid accessibility into the truck and provide protection to the lower body.

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            As a former Ranger owner, I just don’t see why I should buy a pickup truck I don’t like. I don’t like pickup trucks where I can’t easily reach over the sides, or where the load floor is at my sternum.

            Too-high sides are less functional, and pickups are supposed to be functional.

            If you want to secure the items in the vehicle, and only access it from the back, you want a van.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Oh, my. This could either be the best thing since sliced bread or an abysmal failure; it all depends on how Ford applies this.

    Now, most of us should already know there’s an aftermarket slider kit for all pickup brands that does much the same thing, albeit not necessarily electrically. The slider, in itself, is not new because of that. Nor could it be patentable if the only difference is an electric drive for it. Based on the drawing, this could easily generate a lawsuit against Ford by that original slider-making company.

    However, what if this were truly the deck of the bed riding on the frame rails rather than a tray riding on the deck and wasting cubic footage? Honestly, that’s one of my complaints about the slider idea, especially if you have a tonneau cover over the bed. Rather, what we could see is an ability to make the tailgate an integral part of the bed (making it harder to steal), opening and closing automatically as the deck is motored out or in. A relatively simple mechanical latch system could lock the tailgate down if the load is longer than the bed simply by having the load’s weight holding down a full-width bar or manually holding that bar down as the deck is retracted. Simple ideas that would make this concept extremely useful.

    Additionally, this could open the alleged ‘wasted space’ around the wheel wells to lockable storage either accessible from inside the bed like many aftermarket rigs or copying Ram’s “RamBox” bed sides which honestly are remarkably practical. What such a rig could give the owner is the true practicality of a step-side pickup where the bed itself had squared sides that made loading/unloading easy even with a shovel while keeping the aerodynamic body sides with truly functional storage for items you’d rather not keep in your cab all the time, like load management components or loose tools. Yes, you could even make flip-out steps for accessing the front of the bed without having to push the slider all the way out or physically climbing into the bed to reach them. There are so many possibilities!

    There are also handicaps, only one of which I mentioned above: loss of storage space. Another would have to do with trapped water causing corrosion (and yes, even aluminum corrodes.) With the sub-floor only rarely getting exposed to view, such corrosion could penetrate the metal to the extent that it would become essentially impossible to repair. Of course, a different, non-corrodible sub floor of some composite material like plastic would avoid that problem but conceivably generate others.

    Again, depending on how Ford moves with this idea, it could either be truly innovative or destroy Ford’s reputation.

  • avatar
    Rday

    Ford must be having a ‘slow news day’ and needed something to get every fanboy excited about. I have seen many of these manual units and they were generally used for tool display purposes by fire equipment manufacturers. Great when you need to rapidly switch out fire nozzles while demonstrating equipment.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    What happens when something falls off the far end? You then have to try to climb up and retrieve it – assuming you even realize it.

    Fold down sides are far better.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      “Fold down sides are far better.”

      This. Kei trucks get them, why can’t ours?

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        You can get them with aftermarket flatbeds.

        Fold-down sides cost extra and look utilitarian rather than macho, which probably explains why they’re so rare.

        If I were going to do a project ranger, a flatbed with fold down sides would be ideal. I might even be able to get a deal on one with a beat up bed. Forest service green, V6, and 4WD FTW!

        I’m in more of a minivan phase-of-life now, though, so such a project truck like that would be just a hobby.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I’d rather see a set up like a flat deck tow truck, have the whole box slide off of the frame rails and turn into a ramp. That would solve the problem of debris in the box jamming up the slide.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      The ramp angle will be too steep for common pickup bed lengths. And the way pickups are realistically used, requires the bed to remain fairly flat all the time, or the owners lifetime accumulated belongings will fall out :)

      Now: Slide all the way out past the bumper, then lower to the ground like a liftgate, like a more Joe Average friendly Switch-N-Go, would be pretty much the holy grail. A bit ambitious for the average chromed out air hauler, I suppose….

  • avatar
    ItsBob

    Wow, its at the concept/patent pending status.
    And already its wrought with problems, issues, and downright poor design according to some?
    Sounds like when word got out about Ford planning to build an aluminum body pickup.
    Based on all the naysayers on here and other sites, it wouldn’t work and would just crumple and be “way” too costly to insure..!
    Its amazing that Ford didn’t just toss that plan. They didn’t and they built it right and it works.
    This thing likely will to, if it gets to an offered option status.
    If Ford can devise an option that will almost perfectly back your boat trailer into the water for you, this should be easy to do right.

  • avatar
    Menloguy

    How about a non-motorized manual platform resting on ball bearings that you pull out and retract with your hands like a cabinet drawer? Maintenance will be easy and it does not require a motor, wire harnesses and tracks that can add weight to the truck and decrease fuel economy.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    If Ford actually produces this, the Chevy guys will have a field day on a commercial dumping a ton of rocks into the bed from a front-end loader and see if it still works!

    “See? Their bed doesn’t move and neither does ours!”

  • avatar
    djoelt1

    Have pickup trucks now become so tall that you can’t reach over the side of the bed to get stuff anymore? How useless have these things become, such that something like this might be necessary?

    It’s past time when the front clip of pickups should tilt forward like on the Viper so you don’t need a stepladder to perform engine work.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Yes, they have.

      That’s one of the reasons I didn’t buy a full size truck to replace my Ranger when it was time to replace it.

      I really wanted another pickup truck, because I’m practical — but my Ranger was a lousy kid hauler. An F-150 crew cab could have hauled the kids — but there were enough usability problems (high bed, urban parkability) with F-150 that I gave up on trucks entirely and have been driving CUVs and minivans ever since.

      I miss the truck’s capabilities now and then, but I’m glad I’m not paying for those capabilities with usability problems and poor fuel efficiency for 320 days a year.

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