The typical pickup truck bed is little more than a box with a tailgate, but Ford is envisioning something more elaborate.
Four recent patent filings from the automaker show ways to make a pickup bed reconfigurable by extending the length of both the bed floor and walls, and by adding deployable ramps and steps for easier access.
The first patent filing titled "Extendable Cargo Bed Floor" describes a system of movable floor sections that would allow the bed floor to extend out past the rear bumper of a pickup. The floor sections could fold up accordion-style and be stowed at the front of the bed when not needed, according to the document, which also mentions a section that slides straight out as a possibility.
Patent image of Ford extending cargo bed floor with steps and split tailgate
The extendable bed floor could be complemented by a split-opening tailgate, with the split in the middle, Ford says in the document. The two tailgate sections be angled parallel to the extended bed floor to serve as bed-wall extensions. They could also open 180 degrees to create a work space, complete with tool hooks and auxiliary lights on the insides of the tailgate halves.
A second patent filing titled "Extendable Cargo Bed Floor and Cargo Bed Side Walls" applies a similar concept to the bed's walls as well. In this example, the bed floor still folds out in sections, but the rear section of the bed also telescopes out. The inner bed walls extend, taking the taillights and tailgate with them.
Ford has also considered adding a deployable rear step, similar to its current pickups, to the extendable bed floor system. That's described in yet another patent filing, which claims these steps could fold up into one of the floor sections described in the previous two filings. Ford currently hides fold-out steps in the tailgate, but opts to place them in the floor section here to enable the split-folding tailgate design described in the first patent filing.
Patent image of Ford ramp system for extendable bed floor
Finally, a fourth patent filing shows how a ramp system could be added to the extended bed floor. In this case, the ramp would slide out from the rearmost section of the floor, stowing in that floor section when not needed.
Automakers frequently patent ideas that don't make it to production, but the way all of the features described in these four patent applications were designed to work together, it seems Ford engineers have at least thought this through.