Ferrari quietly filed a patent in July of 2023 that could allow it to sell road cars with a driver’s seat that moves from a center position to either side. On February 1st, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published the filing. Now, we’re about to pick over it with a fine-toothed comb.
First spotted by the folks over at CarBuzz, this patent allows the driver and their controls to move from one side of the car to a center driving position. Patent drawings included in the filing make no bones about it. The driver’s seat moves laterally and brings the pedal box and the steering wheel with it. That indicates that the system would leverage drive-by-wire with no mechanical linkage between things like the steering wheel and the front wheels. That’s the same system that’s currently only available in the Tesla Cybertruck.
Why go to the trouble of creating a complex system like this? The impetus for this technology might be on display in plain English. In the filing, Ferrari states
“the whole driver’s station, including the steering assembly and the set of pedals move between the limit positions, so that the driver can guide the vehicle from one off-centre, or more external, position as normally occurs for road vehicles, or from one more central, or more internal, position, as occurs for racing vehicles.”
The implications aren’t as simple as having two driving positions to choose from. It could allow a car to go from a performance-focused track day toy to an everyday two-seater. Ferrari goes into some depth regarding the ancillary features of this seating situation. For example, it mentions that the seating configuration could change based on input from a user’s phone. The mirrors would automatically adjust based on the seating position too. It even makes mention of potentially having a third pedal “to control a clutch of a vehicle.” It doesn’t appear as though three driving positions will be available but two is 100% more than in every other car.
In theory, this sort of adjustable driving position is practical even if no secondary seat ever ends up as part of the design. Getting in and out of a car with a centrally positioned driver’s seat isn’t always graceful. Slipping into and out of the left or right seat is far more straightforward. It would make sense then to have a seat that allowed for the best driving position (in the center) and ease of ingress and egress (the sides).
Ferrari points this out in the patent too and seems to indicate that the patent could even end up as part of its future racing cars.
“The vehicle could be a racing vehicle – if the seat were fixed to the floor in a central forward position as would be optimal for a racing vehicle, the driver’s access to the seat via the side door would be particularly complex if not actually impossible based on the profile of the body.”
Just like in the Ferrari patents, the PB18 e-tron utilized drive-by-wire along with a complete driver’s monocoque that moved laterally. While on display, the seat would move back and forth demonstrating the motion. The video below shows that movement into both positions.
There’s no telling if Ferrari’s patent ever makes it to production but there’s certainly a chance that it does. Currently, it’s in the “ready for examination” stage of the patent process. That means that the USPTO could simply grant the patent or it could go back to Ferrari with more questions or concerns about the filing.