Ford employees drive innovation with inventions
With all the new innovations, Ford is on pace to break last year's record of more than 6,000 invention disclosures.
Ford is reporting that employee inventions are reaching an all time high. Through August of this year, more than 4,500 Ford employees submitted invention disclosures with nearly half being first-time inventors.
“The significant increase in first-time inventors is a result of our push to drive innovation in all parts of our business,” said Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, product development, and chief technical officer. “At the same time, we’ve ramped up global innovation challenges, where we seek new ideas company-wide and then – coupled with input from employees – see how we can further those ideas.”
The innovations range from a prototype vehicle that collects condensation from vehicle air conditioners, then filters and pumps it inside the cabin; a passenger-centric, remote-controlled SYNC system that could give ride-sharing passengers control of the infotainment screen; and a transportable robotic device that can move people and objects short distances where cars aren’t accessible.
Doug Martin, a Ford powertrain controls engineer, was struck with an idea when he read about a billboard in Lima, Peru, that during humidity into drinking water. Could a car be used as a source of water? Martin worked with colleague John Rollinger to develop a prototype system that collects, filters and pumps condensation from the vehicle to a faucet located inside the car.
“All that water going to waste should be recovered to serve a purpose,” said Martin. “The real vision is that this idea could eventually help people who don’t have easy access to water, in remote locations such as the Australian Outback, for example.”
Martin tested the idea and proved that a car can produce more than 64 ounces of water per hour, which would mean fewer pit stops and convenience for drivers.
Ford’s Oleg Gusikhin, Omar Makke and Jeff Yeung teamed up for their latest invention that empowers passengers in a rider-sharing service. The trio developed a new software program — SYNC Remote Control — based on their experience working with Ford SYNC. With the support of Ford’s Perry MacNeille and Jack Van Hoecke, the project evolved into a remote function that allows passengers to control SYNC features like radio and climate settings.
“By rethinking mobile connectivity from the passenger’s perspective, we saw how we can use smartphones to give riders control through SYNC without the need to be directly paired via Bluetooth,” said Gusikhin.
For ride-sharing passengers, a mobile device automatically opens an app interface enables control of the radio and climate. The innovation uses open-source software to connect the rider’s phone to SYNC through the driver’s phone without additional pairing. The software includes a translation feature, for when driver and rider don’t speak the same language.
The team see this invention becoming extremely important for fully autonomous vehicles, where there is no driver to control settings.
The last invention came through a company challenge to develop a device to help people handle city life and get around town inaccessible by vehicle. Kilian Vas, a Ford systems engineer in Cologne, Germany, met the challenge by designing a four-wheeled electric pedestrian assistant called Carr-E.
Carr-E’s multipurpose functionality makes it unique and distinct from other electric personal transportation devices. Carr-E not only carries passengers but can be used to transport heavy objects. Users simply place the object on the device and it will follow an electronic transmitter they keep in their possession, making it easy to navigate through a city where cars are unable to reach.
Vas was inspired to create the device’s compact, circular design when he noticed the empty space inside the spare wheel well of his car.
“Innovation is really important for me,” said Vas, who collaborated with colleagues Daniel Hari and Dr. Uwe Wagner, and worked with designers from Ford of Europe and prototyping specialists from RWTH Aachen University to create Carr-E. “I was inspired by Ford’s expansion into both an auto and a mobility company, as well as our founder Henry Ford’s dedication to transforming transportation.”
With all the new innovations, Ford is on pace to break last year’s record of more than 6,000 invention disclosures.