During my eight year tenure as a South Dakota Black Hills resident, I was lucky enough to live 15 minutes from a good drive-in theater. As such, I can personally attest that this feature proposed by Ford in the patent filing for the drive-in film mode is smart. Unfortunately, with only about 320 drive-ins remaining in the US, demand may not be enough to warrant development.
First, let’s talk about the Carolina Squat. As a refresher, that’s the trend of modifying vehicles that sit much lower in the back, letting the front point towards the sky. Some liken this suspension mod to the dog that was number two in the yard, and outright banned in Virginia. Still, as a veteran of a dozen or so drive-in movies, I can think of no better place to slam that back end into the ground. You’d be surprised how often the windshield frame interferes with the screen view, but of course, that requires a vehicle with height-adjustable suspension.
Oddly enough, the patent description mentions this feature almost in passing, burying several pages down. The drive-in mode’s focus point revolves around the infotainment system, which can also be a problem for moviegoers in modern vehicles. A completely dark interior is always best in the drive-in (for viewing movie screens, you pervert) but tuning the stereo to a local station is necessary to get audio.
That means the center display usually stays on, and even the lowest light levels can negatively affect the movie viewing experience. Also, the infotainment system may time out after a few minutes, which must be annoying if you miss the main storyline. A vehicle restart or at least an electrical system cycle is usually required to restore audio, and that can trigger daytime running lights. Believe me, nothing irritates people at the drive-in more than being flashed by the car behind them.
Convertible in a drive-in is boss, but chilling out in a reclining SUV with a gazillion speakers would be great. Photo Credit: Christopher Smith
This drive-in mode can get rid of all that. Engaging the system not only allows unrestricted stereo use in dark environments, but can activate air conditioning and other comfort features as needed. That would disable daytime running lights while allowing occupants to use their horns or lights to signal driving employees if necessary. And yes, it will crouch to give the best possible view of the screen.
Because theaters were so scarce in the United States, Ford proposed the system could be used elsewhere where people remain in their vehicles. During the height of the pandemic, there were many locations offering everything from makeshift theaters to church services. Sensors and GPS data will link to determine if a place is suitable to activate the system, presumably to prevent the evil use of squats.
The patent was filed last year but was only issued recently. As of now, it’s unclear whether such a system will be offered in future Fords, but it’s definitely a cool idea.