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Ford seeks patent on system for autonomous off-road vehicles

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When a vehicle approaches off-road terrain, such as boulders or a large ditch, the system would use image processing technology to determine whether the vehicle could cross. Photo credit: Ford patent documents

Ford Motor Co’s future could include a self-driving Bronco or F-150 Raptor.

The automaker has applied for a patent on an autonomous system for off-road vehicles that would enable the vehicles to traverse dirt, gravel, mud, sand and other tricky terrain.

Although Ford has announced no plans for a robo rock-climber, the patent sheds light on how the automaker thinks people might use self-driving vehicles.

The patent application said that such a system would include a processor with access to “a memory storing instructions executable by the processor.”

Here’s how it would work:

When a vehicle approaches off-road terrain, such as boulders or a large ditch, the system would use image processing technology to determine whether the vehicle could cross. If the vehicle could cross, the system would autonomously control active suspension that would enable the vehicle to pass over, or through, the obstacle.

The patent application included a pickup as an example but noted the system could work with “any passenger or commercial automobile such as a car, a truck, a sport utility vehicle, a crossover vehicle, a van, a minivan, a taxi, a bus, etc.”

Ford, in a statement, said it submits “patents on innovative ideas as a normal course of business. Patent applications are intended to protect new ideas but aren’t necessarily an indication of new business or product plans.”

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