By on June 26, 2018

2017 Ford Fusion Sport Interior, Image: © 2017 Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars

Apparently, the increasingly complex array of buttons on the side of a modern driver’s seat has become too much for humans to process. There’s just too many ways to adjust our seating position (though not in this writer’s car).

What if, instead of pressing buttons and switches, we could bark orders or use a touchpad? That’s the future Ford envisions.

In a U.S. patent dated June 26th (kudos to the intrepid Bozi Tatarevic), Ford Global Technologies offers a solution, though it’s up to the reader to determine if it’s even an improvement over what we have now. Many of us aren’t flummoxed by a power driver’s seat, even if it’s a 30-way wonderchair.

Image: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Ford’s patent utilizes a voice input device and touchscreen input device working in unison with an adjustment actuator to control seat movements.

Because “seats are being developed and offered with increasing numbers of moveable portions with increasingly complex or nuanced movements,” it can be difficult to bundle the buttons and switches into a physical control array “in an intuitive manner,” the patent reads.

Ford’s solution allows a user to initiate a seat movement with either a voice command or touchscreen input, and to stop the movement in one of the same ways. Choosing the nature of the seat movement (its adjustment mode) can also be a verbal exchange.

Ford claims the patent offers a hands-free way to adjust seating position, and would incorporate features to limit seat movement “based on occupant safety.”

Needlessly complex, or just the ticket for a cushy ride? You decide.

[Image: Steph Willems/TTAC, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office]

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16 Comments on “Talk to the Chair: Ford Patents Voice-activated Seats...”


  • avatar
    Dilrod

    Flatulence jokes commencing in 3, 2…

  • avatar
    carguy

    Considering how terrible most car voice recognition are, this really seems like a questionable idea. Who wants to describe their perfect seating position to their car?

    Me: “Hey car, move the seat just a little back”
    Me: “Not that far – a little forward”
    Car: Pushes me into the steering wheel.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    I really hope there’s a safety interlock that prevents changes being made while the vehicle is in motion. Otherwise what’s to stop people from screwing with their friends by ordering the car to change the seating position.

  • avatar
    Alcolawl

    This is kind of silly. It’s not THAT hard to adjust your seat, and once you’ve got it where you like it it’s pretty uncommon that you’ll be changing it. The only voice commands that I would see being useful for seating position is quickly loading a Seat Profile. So if the dealership screwed with your seat or maybe your wife took the car out for a spin, you can hop in and quickly restore your preferred seating position.

    *Ding! Please Say a Command* “Load Seat Profile 1”

    That’d be cool.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    Man is that ever a patent that won’t withstand even a trivial challenge.

    “No, just adding ‘for seating’ to ‘voice control’ doesn’t make it patentable, FFS.”

  • avatar
    JMII

    Well one problem this would solve (provided it works) is adjusting the seat with your voice means your arms/hands can stay in the proper driving position so right away you’ll feel if the position is correct. However I don’t see how this fixes the 12 different ways to adjust the seat. Instead of trying to use 12 different buttons you now have to know the 12 different words to use. A touch screen with a picture of the seat seems like a much better idea.

    I’m kind of surprised someone (Volvo?) hasn’t just put sensors in that adjust based on pressure points. Combine that with some kind of eye tracking, along with hand and feet position sensors and in theory the car should be able to conform to your body shape after a quick scan. IE: my wife is short thus it senses her eye position and moves the seat up and forward. The same tech that allows you to unlock your iPhone by just looking it should be able to manage this.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I know just cuz you patent something doesn’t mean it’s in the next Edge, but jeez. Is this where we are? Spending time and money so someone can adjust a seat position with their voice?

    We have definitely hit the diminishing returns in the auto industry.

    Now we’re entering the absurd. I can’t even figure how this will be faster/easier than switches. It screams of more features that are “there” that someone might use once and then never again.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    The number of times I had to b-tch out Mrs. Sync because she refused to do what I needed leads me to believe this is a brilliantly bad idea. Eventually I gave up and searched through menus to do things. I would say that if the system prevents excessive leaning by preventing certain adjustments it might make for safer drivers.

    Right now all I want from my seats, that I don’t currently have, would be tilt up from and adjustable thigh support (kind of like that BMW system which offers an extendable seat base).

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Same here. I’ve pretty much given up on the voice activated navigation, and will just pull over and input it by hand. You have to remember every single word of this multi-step process, and one screw up means starting over from the beginning.

      Sync just isn’t smart or flexible enough to understand most natural language. No system will be without an internet connection.

  • avatar
    TwoBelugas

    FFS is this year 1995 all over again? Does Ford still think it’s gadgets or “edgy tech” that caused people to flock to Toyota Camry’s?

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Americans are physically taxed these days, depressing an electric button or flipping a toggle could result in serious injury. This technology is a godsend. Good grief. It’s so bad that last week when a pitcher for the Yankees had to run from third base to home plate…he blew out both hamstrings, lol, and this guy’s a professional athlete. Human beings are being reduced to a bunch of papier-mâché action figures by technology. If it’s not obese Boomers it’s manicured man-bun Millennials.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Here’s a moneymaking idea for Ford: when the system switches on, the driver hears a pre-selected sexy male or female voice saying stuff like “how’s that, baby?” or “I bet you had a real rough day…I bet that feels so good.”

    Pure profit.

    Note to Ford accounting: the last name on my seven figure check should be spelled “F-r-e-e-d”.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I’m thinking of the fitness test I remember during childhood. You had to step up and down to a voice with a cadence.

    “Up up, down down, up up, down down…”

  • avatar

    I cannot convince my Ford to make phone calls or anything else by just trying to talk to it. It is probably my heavy Californian accent or with aging its hearing is getting worse.

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