The US manufacturer’s patent includes plans for front seats that can rotate 180 degrees to face back-seat passengers while the car is operating in autonomous driving mode. In this layout, Ford's patent explains the steering wheel would retract into the dashboard to create extra space inside the cabin.
In another layout, the front seats can fold down into the foot wells to be used as footrests for passengers travelling in the back while the car drives itself.
The flexible seating ideas are similar to those seen earlier this year in the innovative Mercedes-Benz F015 Luxury in Motion autonomous vehicle concept.
Ford, as with most global automotive manufacturers, is advanced in its research, development and testing of autonomous vehicle technology. In June, the company announced that it had moved into the advanced engineering stage of autonomous vehicle development – the second of three phases it has planned in the lead-up to the introduction of a production vehicle.
Ford played down the patent, telling Business Insider submitting patents was a natural part of its business and denying that the ideas were destined for showrooms any time soon.
“We submit patents on innovative ideas as a normal course of business. Patent submissions help protect our new ideas but do not necessarily indicate future business or product plans.”
Speaking with reporters in June, Ford Motor Company CEO Mark Fields said the company hasn’t set a release date for its autonomous vehicle technology, but suggested that when it was ready it wouldn’t come with an astronomical price tag.
“We haven’t put a timetable on it but when we do come out with an autonomous vehicle, it’s very important that that vehicle is accessible to everyone and not just luxury customers, because that’s who we are as a company.”