Ford engineers demo in-car water dispenser, text-to-speech language app, and more

How about a hoverboard that follows you around and carries all your stuff?

Ford's annual "Further with Ford" event usually includes an announcement from an executive followed by discussions of trends in various industries. But this year the company saved the most interesting stuff for last. At the end of the day, three Ford engineers presented some unusual ideas they've been working on, including an in-car water dispenser, an app to control car settings and translate between driver and passenger, and a hoverboard for carrying you or your cargo.

The first invention was the in-car water dispenser, which Ford called "On-the-go H2O." Basically, it consisted of a drinking water tap in the center console. Considering the addition of in-car refrigerators to high-end luxury cars, this feature could be a great complement. But that wasn't the intention of the engineer, who imagined this as a way to save waste water and possibly even provide a way to get clean water in areas where its tough to come by.

The beauty of On-the-go H2O is in its simplicity. The water supply comes from the condensation that is a natural byproduct of the vehicle's air conditioning system. On this prototype, the water collects in a pan where it is then pumped through a tube, into a filter, and out of a dispenser found at Home Depot. You probably won't be able to get this feature in a Ford anytime soon, but an enterprising DIY-er could probably rig up a similar system at home.

Following the water dispenser was an app called "Phone as Car." The idea behind this is that, as car- and ride-sharing become more common, it would be nice to have a way to have your preferred car settings wherever you go, without having to repeatedly play with dials and menus. This app allows the rider to adjust climate control and radio settings in any vehicle with compatible software. It would also have the potential to adjust climate control and radio settings in an autonomous car before it arrives, giving the user the perfect riding conditions before taking a seat.

The app also features a translation function that could take texts from the passenger, and speak them in the driver's preferred language via Ford SYNC. Then the driver could say something back through SYNC and it would be translated into a text for the passenger. The engineer was inspired to add this after a personal experience in China when he couldn't communicate clearly and didn't want to distract his driver.

The third and final device shown was a circular, wheeled hoverboard called "Carr-E" (pronounced "carry"). The engineer behind it rode it on stage, but that only touched on its capabilities. While it could carry you for 14 miles at 11 miles per hour, the real innovative use is in how it could carry your stuff. The hoverboard can be controlled by remote, or it can be set to follow you. Then you can set your stuff on it and walk unencumbered wherever you need to go. The engineer also said some other cargo carrying add-ons could be developed to better secure luggage. Carr-E has sensors so it can avoid people and obstacles. It's shape makes it easy to set things on, and fits nicely in a spare-tire well.

None of these features will likely be available on a Ford in the near-future, but we still could see one or two someday. They all seem extremely feasible, and all seem to offer potential benefits. Let us know what you think in the Comments section below.

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