DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. thinks the interior of autonomous vehicles could resemble a kitchen or office conference room.
The automaker earlier this month patented a retractable table -- complete with an airbag -- for use in self-driving cars.
The idea? Since a driver wouldn't need to pay attention to the road, seats could be configured to face inward around a table that passengers could use to eat, play a card game or type on a laptop.
"There remains an opportunity to design vehicle amenities for the occupants that takes into account the reduced operation monitoring provided by the autonomous vehicle," the patent application said.
The table would be able to retract into the floor of the vehicle when not in use. The patent said the table would be able to work in either a body-on-frame or unibody vehicle.
It would also include an airbag that would inflate in case of a crash to "absorb energy" and "reduce the likelihood of the occupant impacting the table during the vehicle impact."
The car table patent is a glimpse into what future robot cars could look like, but does not mean that Ford will bring it to market.
"We submit patents on innovative ideas as a normal course of business," a Ford spokesman said in an emailed statement. "Patent applications are intended to protect new ideas but aren't necessarily an indication of new business or product plans."
The automaker has said it plans to introduce a Level 4 autonomous vehicle in 2021 for commercial uses such as ride-hailing or package delivery.