Ford has patented a retractable table fitted with airbags for autonomous cars. The vision behind this is that in a fully autonomous car where the driver will be just another passenger, the front seats that can turn around 180 degrees and passengers can interact with each other over the table. An airbag that extends around the perimeter of the top surface of the table is to limit the likelihood of an occupant impacting the table and/or to absorb energy from the occupant during the vehicle impact.
Ford has announced its plan to launch fully autonomous cars by 2021 but whether this kind of design will be included in those vehicles has not been made clear. As the race towards autonomous cars is gaining pace, automakers are leaving no chance to gain an edge over each other. This spurt in the patents related to it only corroborates this fact. However, a patent is just meant for protecting an idea, it doesn’t always get translated into actual models.