I’m fully on board with the idea of a self-leveling cup holder

It’s hard to imagine these days being the season of strange patent applications, and yet here we are. Another day, another automaker with an amusing patent application that, in hindsight, should probably have been done years ago. Ford, for all of its engineering and innovation, is now looking into developing a unique contraption that essentially makes cup holders a lot more useful than they already are.

Imagine this: you have a hot cup of coffee while you’re on the road. The only place to put it in is in the cup holder, right? Well, cup holders have never been the most useful of items because any sudden external force experienced by a car, be it acceleration or braking, ends with the contents of the cup, in this case, coffee, spilling everywhere. Ford, however, has a designed what it calls a self-leveling cup holder that renders all these external forces moot. You can blast off the highway, brake suddenly, and the coffee stays where it’s supposed to be: inside the cup. The device itself is a good idea. A little strange, or at least late in the game, but a good idea nonetheless. It’s on par with Toyota’s own under-seat device patent application, which itself is a fascinating new wrinkle to the functionality of a car’s interior. It’s unclear, though, whether Ford has any plans for this patent beyond applying for it. Don’t expect it to arrive soon because even if the Blue Oval does bring this new feature to life, it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. Still, a self-leveling cup holder that’ll keep your beverage in place sounds like a good idea.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

How does the self-leveling cup holder work?

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I’m not well-versed in the science of how this thing actually works, but in a nut shell, Ford says its design involves a gimbal, which basically is a pivoted support that allows an object to rotate about on a single axis. The gimbal itself pivots when it meets external forces, which in this case would be sudden movements by a car. Assisting the gimbal is a weight at the bottom of the holder that tilts in the correct direction every time the gimbal pivots, ensuring that the cup remains upright when it’s placed inside the cup holder. Should the cup holder tilt a little too far in one specific direction, a raised lip guard around the whole thing helps stop it. These lip guard also functions as a containment unit to keep external items (dust, dirt, a loose change) from interfering with the gimbal’s functions.

Ford says its design involves a gimbal, which basically is a pivoted support that allows an object to rotate about on a single axis

There are plenty more technical bits that help explain the full functionality of the self-leveling cup holder, but some of the details admittedly flew by my head. If you’re more into the science of how this invention could potentially work, feel free to check out the details of the patent application on the USPTO website. Just search for patent no. US20170240085.

Personally, I’m throwing my full weight in supporting this idea, not because I think it’s new and cool, but it could have real-world benefits, especially for drivers like me who prefer my coffee or hot chocolate on the go. Ford’s onto something here, at least as far as the technology on self-leveling cup holders are concerned. Combine it with all the things Toyota’s cooking up, and we could be looking at the future of the automotive industry.

Who cares about electric cars when we can have self-leveling cup holders and under-seat capture devices on our current steeds instead?


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Source: United States Patent & Trademark Office

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