Report: Ford Patents Powered Roof Rack System

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

While it’s fairly common to hear people argue about the true usefulness of modern automotive features, there are some inclusions nobody seems to mind. Automakers cannot seem to add enough places for people to plug in electrical devices. Parents want USB ports for the entire family, pickup truck owners want outlets tucked into the bed, and people doing vehicle modifications want a simple way to power the accessories they probably didn’t need but decided to buy anyway.

To that effect, Ford has patented a powered roof rail system that seems custom-made for proprietary accessories requiring electricity and it doesn’t even sound like it’ll be all that hard to install.

Based on reporting by CarBuzz, which appears to be watching the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) like a hawk these days, Ford has filed for a roof rack system that would allow for powered accessories to be easily integrated by the vehicle’s owner. While it’s unknown which models Ford thinks would be a good candidate for hardware like this, it seems likely that it would be reserved for the brand’s SUVs and pickups – as the device appears as though it needs to be bolted onto the mounts for a preexisting roof rack.

Once affixed, a “connector mechanically connects to an electrically-powered accessory to vehicle structure.” The patent also explains that any mounted accessories will be locked into the unit. This presumably means attached items will be harder for thieves to steal while also being easier for drivers to manage with the help of a key – as the locking mechanism also closes the circuit.

As is always the case with patent filings, the finer details are left a little vague. But the unit sounds as though it’s designed to be simple, modular, and open up the door to a load of Ford-branded accessories that cater to people wanting to make their vehicle more outdoorsy.

From CarBuzz:

The filing also indicates that the system could be installed with relative ease, so this would not be the sort of accessory requiring you to visit the dealer each time you want it on the car. Roof racks on a car tend to add to wind noise and can hamper fuel efficiency, so you wouldn't necessarily want them on your vehicle at all times.
Ford may or may not introduce this as part of a new range [of] accessories in the near future. Still, it seems to believe that this patent design has other potential applications, noting that this powered rack assembly need not be limited to accessories on the upper part of a vehicle. Perhaps this could form the basis for bed-mounted accessories on civilian trucks.
Alternatively, it could facilitate specific add-ons that park rangers, mobile service technicians, or firefighters might need. Either way, it seems that startups like Rivian, which created the Camp Kitchen and Gear Tunnel, may have inspired legacy automakers to consider novel ways of making future products more capable than ever before.

The outlet also mentioned that Ford had previously applied for patents on a sliding, removable crossbar that holds a robotic arm and winch designed to help load and organize objects into truck beds. While that unit has more specific applications and is less likely to hit the consumer market, one could imagine how these two might be paired together. Its very existence also appears to show where the Blue Oval’s mind is in terms of future factory accessories.

In fact, we saw the brand showcasing loads of roof-mounted accoutrements at the 2022 SEMA show. This included the Bronco Sport Off-Roading Heritage concept (a collaboration with Yakima and Hypertech) that's pictured at the top of this article.

If packaged smartly, this seems like it could be a lucrative product for the company. Activity vehicles are quite fashionable at present and – whether you’re driving to an isolated camping site or puttering around New York City – it has become relatively common to see vehicles with raised suspensions, roof-mounted lights, and even winches. Ford could take a meaningful bite out of that space if it manages to get this roof system to market as outlined in the patent filing.

[Images: Ford; USPTO]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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2 of 5 comments
  • InCogKneeToe InCogKneeToe on Mar 16, 2023

    Overly Complicated Rack System, that does what any Aftermarket System would do with a little "Person Power" for 1/4 the price, an do it better. Anyone recall the "No Boundaries Roof Rack" on the early Escapes? I had just started selling Fords, and there was 1 Escape sitting forever on the lot with that rack. Making it Over Priced, the other Sales People wouldn't even show it.

    The OEM's have battled the Aftermarket for a long time, we even have Manufacture Accessory Reps visit the Dealership often, and no Reps from Sales, Service or Parts

  • MaintenanceCosts It seems like you could get the same look and the same bad British quality, but with quite a bit more support, by buying a late Lotus Esprit.
  • Canam23 The Dacias, dirt cheap, reliable and analog. The Peugeot 3008, great looking crossover with cool interior. The Renault Alpines, super fast and cool.
  • MrIcky My car is header orange which is pretty close to safety cone orange, my truck is (and all my future trucks shall be due to hard lessons learned) white to better hide scratches and branch pinstriping.
  • Arthur Dailey Pluses: There were reportedly only 220 of these ever imported into the USA.Minuses: Much of the car was manufactured in South Africa.Then the parts were shipped to England for assembly. As Clarkson, May and Hammond have said, I believe about these cars, 'nothing says quality like being put together by some blokes in a shed in the Midlands'.
  • Lou_BC This is ironically funny. When I was in Vancouver I was sitting outside watching vehicles go by on a busy street. I noticed that like this study, most were white, black, or a shade of grey. I decided to roughly count 100 vehicles excluding work vehicles. 80 were greyscale (white - silver - greys - black). 20 were a "colour". When I look back on my vehicles, I've owned 2 blue, 2 red, 1 tu-tone teal/silver, 1 tu-tone silver/dark grey, 1 tu-tone light beige/black, and orange with gold stripping.