Forget everything you know about truck accessory racks. Rivian has a new idea that could change how you tie down and carry almost anything.
Rivian is revolutionizing more than just what powers our pickups. In its latest patent, the company is looking at turning the truck accessory upside down, with easier attachment and removal plus power and device communication.
The patent was filed in late January, but it wasn’t published until late April. In patent speak, it covers “vehicle accessory port and plug.” What does that mean? We’ll explore the patent language and break down what it could mean for the Rivian R1T truck, R1S SUV, and other future models.
Rivian Gets Serious About Accessory Mounting
“A vehicle may include an integrated connector system,” it says, before explaining what a vehicle is. You can read the patent for yourself, but prepare for a lot of that type of language. The important part is this: “Each attachment port is configured to receive and engage with an attachment plug of an accessory.”
In the filing, Rivian states the obvious: that many people use their pickups to haul stuff that won’t fit in the cabin or the bed. Like skis, surfboards, and kayaks on the roof, bikes on the hitch, and others. “It would be advantageous to provide an easy to use universal and adaptive mounting system for equipment,” the patent document says.
Conventional mounting hardware usually needs a support structure and adapters, Rivian states. Like crossbars attached to a factory roof rack, or a mounting bracket for a cargo basket.
These accessories are hard to install, and harder to remove, so they’re often left on the vehicle all of the time. They can also be removed by the wrong person, or as the filing calls it, “susceptible to mechanical destruction by an unauthorized user.”
Tailgate-Like Latch for Easy Install and Removal
The solution from Rivian engineers is a latching connection for accessories that looks a lot like the latch inside a tailgate.
In figure 13, you can see the part of the latch mechanism. A spring-loaded catch hooks around a hinge pin to lock the attachment in place. It makes for a secure and stable way to attach accessories to the vehicle that don’t need tools to install or remove.
The latch system itself is ingenious. Rivian’s patent shows how useful and versatile the system could be: attachment points on the roof of the cab, on the truck box rails, and in the bed itself, and all able to hold a Rivian accessory mount.
Flush-mount and surface mounts are possible, so some of the accessory connections would be all but invisible when not in use.
Light- and Heavy-Duty Ports Planned
Safety features are also part of the patent. The wording states that “in some embodiments, there are two stages of retaining a plug within an attachment port.” It means an attachment that has a weaker first-lock capability and then a second more positive lock.
The first would keep the accessory in place, and the second secure it from unwanted removal. Like the two stages of a hood release pull, where pulling the under-dash handle doesn’t end with the hood flying open. You have to undo the second catch.
Rivian’s patent also talks about two different connections, one for light-duty accessories like a low-capacity D-ring, foam block pad, or a bed cap. The second would be for heavy-duty mounting, including gear racks or a single-plug bike rack. A light-duty accessory could be used in an HD mount, but not the other way around.
Truck Battery Could Power Kitchen Accessory, Lighting, More
Here’s where it gets really interesting, though. Item 64: “In some embodiments, an attachment port includes a receiving feature configured to receive and engage with an accessory.” Followed by item 65: “In some embodiments, electric power is provided to, or received from electronics via connections made within the receiving port.”
The accessory mounting plugs could have electrical and communications ports, you can see them in figures 14 and 15, above. That would let your racks be secured and unlocked using the power-locking mechanism.
Or, they could be used to supply power to or from the accessory. Rivian mentions a “cook station” (like the camp kitchen the company has already shown) that could receive power from the truck.
Rivian suggests an electric jack, lighting, a refrigerator, and other powered accessories that could be driven through the mounts — even a solar panel or portable generator that would send power back into the truck’s battery using these attachment plugs.
As far as the accessory mounts shown, Rivian has crossbars for bikes, a rooftop canoe rack (with tie-downs), and a bedside mount for a smaller surfboard.
Is This the Best Truckside Hammock?
Our favorite? The hammock shown in figure 5. Using arms that connect to the roof of the truck and the bedside, Rivian is showing off a comfy place for a nap, one that doesn’t make you climb all the way up to a rooftop tent. Using the data connection, Rivian could even make sure you don’t accidentally drive away with your hammock still in place!
Rivian has shown some clever patents before, like the bike rack that attaches to the inner tailgate, as well as a swinging tailgate that could open 180 degrees. But this latest one is something really special, one that could set the company apart from every other pickup as long as buyers are willing to go for Rivian-specific and -compatible accessory mounts.