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Stories about Ford’s patent team usually follow a familiar structure: Ford patents a whacky feature, we find the patent, we all have a good laugh, we never see the feature. Unfortunately, we may be seeing all too much of its latest patent.

Ford’s “vehicle lighting assembly and lighting method” (US patent number US 2020/0248987 A1) seeks to allow Ford to cover up its head- and taillights when it’s using camouflage. Basically, it wants to integrate LED lights into its automotive camouflage.

This bit of devious patenting is annoying because it means that it will be harder to glean any insights when automotive spy pics come out. Although automakers currently take steps to conceal the shape of new cars’ head and taillights when they test them under camouflage, this, it seems, would allow Ford to cover them up completely.


Modern design is heavily focused on lighting with so-called “light signatures” being an important tool in designers' toolboxes. The design of lighting allows them to differentiate models and make them look more expensive or aggressive.

Still, automotive spy photographer Brian Williams (Spiedbilde), says he's not too worried about this patent.

"I actually don’t think it will be beneficial to Ford," said Williams. "With spy shots, people aren’t buying the shots for the lights."

Williams admits that editors might buy spy shots specifically for the lights if the photos are of something like a GT or a Bronco. But that only applies to cars where people are interested in poring over every detail. With normal everyday prototypes, it won’t make a difference, says Williams.

Glenn Paulina, another spy photographer with KGP Photography, says it's hard to judge how effective this tech will be before seeing on the road, but argues that automakers are already pretty good at hiding headlights.

"Headlight obfuscation is pretty effective already, with the white mesh used in many forms of camouflage coverage, and is often one of the last design elements to be revealed as a development program progresses," Paulina tells us.

This patent could conceivably make concealing the shape of a car easier, too, though. No matter how big or distorted the camouflage is, the need to have lights on public roads limited the shape of camouflage on test vehicles.

With this patent, Ford could theoretically fit a box over its cars and make sure that we see nothing of its prototypes. The box would have to sit under the windows, though, to allow drivers to drivers to see, and that's what Williams is more interested in.

What would really make spy photographers' lives difficult, says Williams, are blinds on the windows. "Interior shots still sell," says Williams, and finding a way to prevent photographers from nabbing a few shots is what would really save automakers some headaches.

So even though this might make some spy shots a little less revealing, you probably don't have to worry too much
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