Automakers have been innovating the features and technology of their vehicles since the first Model Ts started rolling off the Ford production line over a century ago, but it seems like most modifications occur under the hood and inside the car’s electronic systems.
The basic features of the interior of a car have changed very little, or, for some things, not at all. In fact, if you were to look into the interior of a car from a century ago, and the interior of a car that came right off a Bloomington Ford dealership lot yesterday, you’d notice that, by and large, it’s pretty similar!
Same seats, usually the same sort of gear shifters, same basic instrument panel, same cup holders as ever, and same round steering wheel. However, Ford has taken those last two standard features of a car and turned them on their ear. Yes, the humble cup holder and the serviceable, unexciting steering wheel. Ford has taken them and introduced the first truly revolutionary and sweeping changes to them since they first became standard features on cars so long ago.
What’s New in Steering Wheels?
While you may think that steering wheels and cup holders are mature technologies, Ford has gone and changed the game. It may seem surprising and take some getting used to, at first, but you must consider that, despite all our technological advances in the world of automobiles over the past century, we still have the same basic control scheme.
A steering wheel that just moves the car left and right, and maybe has some sound system and navigation controls, and a gear shift that, in the current age of computer controlled and automatic transmissions, is mostly superfluous—a relic from the past. What Ford has done with the steering wheel is combine paddle shifters with steering wheel mounted controls, which was previously only used for luxury options.
The new steering wheel system will feature two paddles on either side, just like a regular paddle shifter. The left paddle will be used to shift the car into neutral, park, and reverse, whereas the right side paddle will be used for shifting to drive.
Built into this system is the nuance of having to shift to drive first, when shifting from reverse to park, preventing accidentally shifting into park after reversing. Hitting the left paddle while the car is in motion will shift the vehicle into neutral, which is just the perfect thing for a showboating engine rev. Then all you need to do is hit the right paddle to shift right back into drive.
Ford first filed for this patent in 2015, and the company has yet to begin using it, but it’s only a matter of time until this innovation comes to Ford’s production cars everywhere. The genius of truly having all the controls for shifting gears located entirely on the steering wheel is that the center console is completely freed up from having to sacrifice prime real estate for a gear shift and other transmission controls.
And Cup Holders?
This brings us to Ford’s next great innovation, which conveniently can be found in the center console of most cars. We’re talking, of course, about the humble and often overlooked cup holder. Now, this might seem puzzling to you. What innovations could someone possibly make to a cup holder? It’s a cylinder shape; you put your cup into it. It seems like that’s all there should be to it, and it’s a completed piece of technology, with no room left to innovate.
Well, everyone else thought the same way until Ford just suddenly came along and blew the concept and utility of cup holders wide open.
While cup holders may seem like an afterthought, they are absolutely a vital and critical piece of car interior design technology. Consider what your life would be like if you had no cup holder. The inability to safely and securely bring a cup along with you on your drives might seem like it would only be a minor annoyance, but consider that such a seemingly minor inconvenience would build up, time after time after time, and over the lifespan of your vehicle your driving pleasure and experience would be diminished from what it otherwise might have been.
The 2017 Ford Super Duty trucks have, in the center console, a double cup holder and deep tray that, with the simple slide of a cleverly integrated panel atop the cup holders, turns into a staggering FOUR cup holders!
A study conducted by Ford found that the most commonly used cups placed in cup holders were the 500-milliliter water bottle, the 20-ounce soda bottle, and the 30-ounce soda cup that one gets from fast food restaurants or gas station soda fountains.
In other words, a cup holder needs to be able to hold these three items, and then it will be useful more often than not. With this clever system, the side tray allows you a place for containers or cups that potentially might not fit into the cup holders, such as an extra-large fountain drink, or insulated beverage container, while allowing you to hold four of the commonly sized containers easily.
What About in Other Fords?
While the large size and generous interior of the Super Duty line of trucks give them ample room to outfit their center consoles with this amazing new innovation in cup storage solutions, Ford’s smaller passenger cars are sadly bereft of the interior space with which to employ this amazing new feature. However, with Ford’s innovative new steering wheel design, these two features can work together synergistically, freeing up the center console and giving Ford’s designers the necessary room to install this into any and all cars they offer.
This is, of course, pure speculation on our part. While Ford’s impressive and forward-thinking new steering wheel design is indeed a patent they hold, and they could theoretically begin implementing it as soon as the next model year, they have yet to make any solid announcements.
Is the General Public Ready for These Changes?
While such a radical redesign is fresh and innovative, it remains to be seen if the general auto-buying public would be as enthusiastic in adopting it. Cars have, after all, remained largely unchanged in basic design since their inception and to introduce a sudden sea change across the board could spell disaster, as car buyers might be prone to abandoning Ford’s vehicles to seek the familiarity and comfort of other, more traditional, offerings from competing automakers.
They’ve already played with this sort of configuration before, however, such as with the Ford GT supercar, where they took things like the windshield wiper and turn signal controls, which are traditionally mounted on the steering column, and moved them to the front of the steering wheel.
While prospective buyers of a supercar like the Ford GT are most likely expecting to be delivered a vehicle packed full of all the latest technology, it remains to be seen how receptive they will be to this change. Depending on feedback, it could pave the way for these kinds of changes and innovations to become standard features. You know what they say: Yesterday’s luxury car is today’s commuter car. Ford’s innovations are certainly exciting to see, and what they hold for the future is worth the anticipation and speculation they generate.
For more information about Ford’s current lineup of vehicles, call (812) 331-2200 or visit Community Ford Lincoln— one of the best car dealerships in Bloomington, IN if you’re out in the Indianapolis area.