We've all had this happen before. You're sitting in your car and you're like, "Oh man, oh boy, there's something I've forgotten. I just know it." But you've pulled out of the driveway now and you're in traffic and you just can't think what it was. Then, as you hit the highway, you're like, "Ah! What an idiot, I do this every time. I've forgotten my dang car-following drone again."
Good news: Mazda has filed a patent application that solves that. You will never lose your car-following drone again with this technology that allows it to sit on the back of your vehicle, readily available for all those things you use it for. And even better, gone are the days of your drone carelessly wandering off or going home with other drivers because this one is tethered to your car.
The drone would be launched from a sort of miniature helipad mounted on the rear window. As you can see from the illustration above, there's a mechanism for linking the drone and pad to the overall car electronics so that you can launch it on command. The circular device (labeled 34) is a spool of cable which keeps the drone tied to the vehicle.
Anyone who has ever owned pre-Bluetooth earphones, a laptop charger, or a garden hose will be aware that coiling something up is a great way to make sure it remains tangled forever and ever. In theory, though, this would get 'round the drone being considered separate from the car, umbilically tied. Now whether or not this would actually get past any kind of licensing for say, using it on the open road, is up to whoever makes those decisions.
The drone in the patent app is explicitly useful as a camera. In that case, it could have real applications; Ford has suggested auxiliary drones for if sensors fail on self-driving vehicles and it's undeniable that it would, in a sort of weird supervillain robot sidekick way, give you another chance to look at your surroundings. But would that many people be keen to have some ugly-arse heliport slapped all over the rear window just for the chance to occasionally scout what the people in the car behind yours' Starbucks order was at the drive-thru?
Of course, what people actually use camera drones for with cars already is making cinematically self-indulgent videos of driving whatever the fanciest vehicle they can lay their hands on through whatever the coolest bit of landscape nearby them is. Mazda drivers already suffer from a pretty lengthy list of stereotypes but up until now, "YouTuber" has not really been one of them. Yet.
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