Ford’s new patent application explores how smell sensors could change taxi bookings

If you can’t endure particular smells, these sensors could ensure you don’t hop into the wrong car.

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Ford has filed an unusual patent application that outlines how our sense of smell could factor into future ride-hailing or taxi bookings. 

The patent application (.PDF) filed in the United States (US20200111189) on April 9, describes how vehicle smells could be included alongside basic information -- such as car type, license plate numbers, and seating arrangements -- when using a ride-hailing service such as Uber or Lyft, a traditional rental car, or taxi service. 

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As reported by sister site CNET, these "odor associations" could relate to everything from pine fresheners bouncing around front mirrors to drivers tucking into particularly smelly food for lunch. 

The system relies on environmental sensors in vehicles that read chemicals in the air associated with specific odors. Onboard computers, networked with these sensors, analyze and cross-check this data against stored, known smells and their chemical compositions. 

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A customer would set their preferences on a ride-sharing app and their tolerances to different smells, and their "threshold" to smell could result in alerts sent to passengers warning of smells detected before they book a ride, which, in turn, could ultimately change their purchase decisions. 

If the threshold of a smell is too much for a customer to accept, this ride could be rejected in favor of waiting for another vehicle. 

"The transportation system may provide a reliably pleasant environment for the user while riding and may reduce harm to the user through allergic reactions to the vehicle environment," the patent reads. 

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Many patent applications, even if approved, never enter full commercial development. While this patent could be seen as frivolous, it may still have value when it comes to health and allergies, of which smells and chemical compositions in the air could be seen as valuable information that needs to be taken into account when booking a ride. 

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