Electric cars are giving the automotive industry a shake-up like nothing it has seen in a century. Some people, however, have dreams far bigger than simply replacing the internal combustion engine with a battery-driven motor and aren't too fussed about little matters like practicality.
Vehicle leasing company Vanarama decided to do a trawl through patents that have never come into production, and almost certainly never will. They definitely found some doozies, and even illustrated them, putting two to three patents from different sources on the same imaginary car. Many of these are exactly the sort of thing you'd expect someone to come up with after an evening consuming newly legalized substances. What's amazing is someone put in the time, and considerable expense, to lodge patents over them. Even more astonishingly, these are not all the products of eccentric individuals – most of them are owned by major manufacturers.
Tesla won much love from the community when they opened up their patents for electric vehicles in an effort to boost the overall market while risking their lead. Most attention focused on things like superchargers, but you might not have heard about the (very Elon-Muskish) lasers that can clean your windscreens.
Toyota and Ford, the two car companies with the most 2018-2019 US patents, followed up with more limited patent releases, but we're not sure whether anyone will be rushing to build the retractable telescopic tail or mobile meeting room respectively patented by the two giants.
It's not just specialist car companies. Google patented a sticky car bonnet so that in a collision pedestrians stay on top of the car, rather than being pushed under or thrown into the air. If that's what they're counting on to stop people worrying about their driverless vehicles, we don't think it will work.
A few examples actually sound quite useful, such as a light on the front of an autonomous vehicle to signal to pedestrians when it's safe. Many a parent may have longed for a backseat partition to keep warring children safe from each other and some probably built their own, so maybe there is a market for one that is easy to install and remove.
We're even a little surprised a machine that brews coffee while you drive hasn't taken off, despite being patented almost 30 years ago. The toilet that stores your urine when you can't pull over might be similarly functional, but fewer people might be keen to carry it.
Our favorite, however, is the individual who, we're guessing, looked at plans to build solar-powered cars – now getting close to fruition – and thought “what about wind?” Somehow we doubt Peter Ripley's “Roof-mounted turbine system to power an electric vehicle” is the power system the world needs, but hey, it's not like wind-powered transportation has never worked before.