Issue: Jan 2003


Smart Storage



JCIs overhead system allows a driver to customize theiroverhead area.

by Andrea Wielgat

The system allows automakers to refresh vehicle interiors in the middle of a lifecycle without additional design, engineering and tooling costs.

Johnson Controls Inc. has come up with a solution to address shrinking vehicle storage space -- customized overhead modules.

Even though todays vehicles are getting larger, the storage space is getting smaller and smaller

Johnson Controls Inc. developed a system that allows customized storage in the overhead area of a vehicle. The company\'s Overhead Rail system will debut on the new 2004 Ford F-150. It will be standard on the XLT, FX4 and Lariat SuperCar and SuperCrew models

Overhead Rail uses two brushed aluminum rails that are incorporated into the headliner. The system starts behind the rearview mirror and extends beyond the second row of seats and is designed to carry electrical wires inside the rails. Storage, utility or entertainment modules snap on to the rail

Customers can choose which modules they would like included in the system. Standard on the F-150 is a front module with a dome light, DVD player and small and large storage modules, says Rick Arnold, executive director of business development -- overhead systems. Other optional modules include:

JCIs AutoVision screen allows passengers to watch movies or play games. The screen flips up when not in use.

  • A big storage module can be used to store window scrapers, snacks, gloves and maps, while the small storage module can hold things like sunglasses, garage door openers and pens.
  • A Satellite radio system will allow the drive to slide in a receiver and pick up satellite radio\'s music, talk, news and sports stations.
  • Black & Decker engineered the content of two modules for the system. The first is a mini snakelight that was designed to fit into one of the storage module\'s molded compartments. Black & Decker also designed an AC Power invertor that slides into the rails and acts as a secondary outlet.
  • A set of two-way radios with 22 channels and backlit LCD screen fit into the molded storage compartment.
  • As an alternative to a glove box, JCI has a lockable storage module.
  • A PDA holder keeps any palm device safe.
  • Travel size tissues fit into the tissue holder module.
  • The cell phone holder was designed to cradle cell phones keeping them locked in place while not in use.
  • A DVD/CD holder keeps discs safely in one place.
  • The fishing pole holder uses clasps that fit into the rails and keeps disassembled fishing poles secure during transport.
  • A first aid kit keeps supplies close by in case of an emergency.
  • GPS holder is coming soon and will allow drivers to travel with their portable GPS system only when they need it.

  • Overhead Rail is designed to allow customers to change the modules whenever they like from point-of-purchase and throughout the vehicle\'s life cycle. The modules will be available for purchase at Ford dealers and eventually by aftermarket companies such as Black & Decker and Pioneer. Since the modules are lightweight and compact it will be easy for automotive manufacturers, car dealership personnel, maintenance technicians and vehicle owners to remove and install them in a \'plug and play\' fashion, says Arnold.

    The system also allows automakers to refresh vehicle interiors in the middle of a life cycle without additional design, engineering and tooling costs, says JCI. Additionally, it will allow automakers the opportunity to include the most updated infotainment and telematics technology without reworking the vehicle\'s interior. On Ford\'s system, the rails are silver while the modules are tan. Eventually, different color modules and rails will be available for different vehicle models and additional automakers.

    Several other automakers are looking at the system. Since the overhead system needs several inches of space, it fits best in a pickup, minivan, SUV or crossover vehicle. But the space between the rails will always remain the same so aftermarket companies can design accessories for the system.

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