How Ford plans to charge your phone
The next generation of car seats could be able to charge your phone while it remains in a pants pocket. The car seat of the future will keep tabs on a driver's health, offer better integrated heating and even offer controls for windows and doors.
Ford is working on materials with new capabilities that could represent important changes to vehicle interiors.
The manufacturer says 3D knitting already used to make high-end sneakers could result in more eye-catching and breathable seat materials for new cars. Removable seat covers will bring a new degree of personalisation.
Ford says the technology could also result in built-in connectivity such as "wireless smartphone charging".
It doesn't say exactly how that would work in new cars.
But the technology is emerging.
Nottingham Trent University in the UK published research in 2018 showing how smart fabrics, or "e-textiles" could power smartphones through the use of electrical elements woven with fibres, even using tiny flexible solar panels to transmit energy to a phone kept in a pocket.
The university says it is working on tiny semi-conductor computer chips bound to yarn fibres with a conformable resin, effectively meshing electronics and cloth "without compromising fabric manufacture".
Purdue University went public in August with a new type of fabric that is washable, bacteria resistant and uses omniphobic triboelectric nanogenerators to "turn a piece of clothing into a mechanism for powering devices".
Humavox took the stage at CES in 2019 to show energy could be transmitted to e-textiles wirelessly, allowing clothing and soft material such as car seats to transfer power to connected devices.
That tech may find its way into cars, which could allow phones to be charged while inside your pocket.
Anais Castinel, interior designer for the Ford, says "3D knitting offers intriguing possibilities that push the boundaries of design and make journeys more comfortable and convenient for the driver and passengers".
Ford isn't the only manufacturer working on hi-tech alternatives to existing fabric.
Bentley recently revealed a new tweed-like option for the Continental GT convertible.
Inspired by classic tweed jackets, the finish involved cleverly dyed materials that are then woven into place to create an effect mimicking the textile.
Other brands produce premium alternatives to leather for environmentally conscious customers.
Range Rover takes a different approach, using Australia and New Zealand-sourced wool blends as a more expensive alternative to leather in models such as the Velar luxury SUV.
The marque's supplier, Kvdrat, says sustainable material such as wool represent the future of luxury.
Maserati offers silk-based seats in partnership with Zegna, giving customers patterned seat covers that look and feel like high-end suits.