Electric vehicles unlock possibilities for vehicle control that are nearly impossible to achieve when using a traditional, more mechanized setup. For example, General Motors reintroduced a four-wheel steering system for both the GMC Hummer EV and upcoming Chevy Silverado EV, which improves vehicle handling. Meanwhile, Rivian has a patented “K-Turn” function. Now, Ford engineers have apparently been working on their own variant of this feature with patent documents pointed out by The Drive that expands upon the system’s capabilities.
Ford Four-Wheel Steering & Crawl Operation Patents
Documents submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office in late September of 2020 were published on March 31 of this year. Titled “Crawl Operations For Four-Wheel Steering Vehicles,” it depicts illustrations of a previous generation F-150 Raptor pickup fitted with steering on all four corners. But, likely, this system will only be for electric trucks like the F-150 Lightning.
The first item on the patent turns the front wheels to the right or left while turning the rear wheels in the opposite direction; then, the two axles drive towards each other. It enables the vehicle to move left or right on a loose surface without moving forward or backward. Luckily, if this doesn’t make sense, the Blue Oval has illustrations to better explain what’s going on.
Whether the driver needs to turn the wheel left or right or press the accelerator is unclear. But a yaw sensor would ensure the vehicle stays straight by modulating power to the front/rear axle. So while having a mode that works similarly to the Hummer EVs Crab Walk, Ford also has another function that is completely decoupled from the steering wheel.
Every single one of the vehicle’s wheels turn independently, meaning the front left tire turns right, the front right turns left, and the same for the rear axle. This mode is intended to be a last-ditch effort to get out of trouble if you’re completely stuck. In theory, this could give the truck just enough traction needed to free itself, and like the previous mode, it locks all the different axles with the help of a yaw sensor. These functions could be completed manually or automatically and aren’t intended to be used on pavement. Just in “Snow, sand, mud, ruts, etc.” that’s likely to ensure that the truck doesn’t make excessive noise or mess up the suspension.
If Ford does implement this into an off-road version of the F-150 Lightning, they just might be taking vehicle off-road capabilities to the extreme.