At this point, we could practically fill an oil tanker with all the ink we’ve spilled writing about the next Ford Bronco. (Well, that is, if we weren’t writing this online.) But that’s in part because of the ever-flowing leaks of information about the new off-roader always provide us with new bits and pieces of Bronco-related news to pass along to you, dear reader.
The latest one comes from an unexpected source: the patent office. As Canada’s AutoGuide discovered, Ford has filed a series of patents depicting an off-roader with removable doors — a vehicle that, from certain angles, bears a distinct resemblance to Broncos of old. (It also looks like a Geo Tracker from other angles, but we won’t hold that against it.) This seems to strongly suggest that Ford’s new terrain-conquering pony will be able to doff its doors and top, much like its primary foe, the Jeep Wrangler. Some of the patent drawings depict the vehicle with no doors at all; others depict it with a variety of tubular structures providing a semblance of separation between the driver and the outside world.
However, perhaps more important are the illustrations depicting airbags in those tubular structures. Blue Oval engineers, it seems, have found a way to add back some of the protection of a door in a vehicle lacking said doors.
As the patent description puts it, “The deployable assembly is a telescopic assembly comprising segments that extend relative to each other as the deployable assembly moves from the stowed position to the deployed position. The inflatable device is secured to each of the segments.” Or, in other words: A tube filled with an airbag pops out to stretch across the door.
Now, it’s not wholly clear from this description whether the telescoping tube needs to constantly be deployed when the car is in motion, or if it shoots out piston-like to bridge the door gap when it senses an imminent accident. (The latter, it seems, would pose serious safety concerns of its own, not the least of which being shattering the errant limbs of anyone flailing about the cabin should their arm or leg be in its path.)
Either way, though, it’s an innovative way to add safety to a type of motoring that normally flaunts the conventions of modern automotive safety regulations. If Ford can indeed find a way to bring the Bronco to market in a form that lets occupants savor doorless driving without worrying quite so much about being thrown out in a crash, it could be a major win over the likes of the Wrangler and Gladiator. At least, presumably, until Jeep comes up with some tech of its own to match it.