The monopost design could make life easier for third-row passengers in SUVs and crossovers.

How often do you think about the seats in your car? Probably not that much, and when you do, we’d bet a fiver it’s either because you spilled something on them, or because your backside hurts after a 12-hour road-trip.

Comfort is certainly the primary mission of a good seat, but from an engineering standpoint, structural rigidity and performance during collisions make designing safe, functional seats something of a challenge. Perhaps that’s why Tesla’s recent patent application for a free-standing monopost seat is both impressive to behold, and complicated to understand.

Tesla Monopost Seat

Tesla Monopost Seat

The obvious question is why have a monopost seat over a standard design? The application background suggests such a design could save weight over traditional seats, while offering easier access to third-row seating in a crossover or sport-utility vehicle. Reading further into the summary and detailed description, the design allows the seat to move forward and backward on tracks at the base, and to also pitch up and down but not rotate. Adjustments can be made manually or electrically.

Since third-row seating typically offers little or no adjustment, this design would certainly give a bit more flexibility for people climbing in and out of the back seats. The monopost design could also create a bit more floor space, especially in the middle row for storage or a bit more legroom for rear passengers.

What makes the concept so complicated, however, is ensuring safety. Much of the patent application talks not about functionality, but how the design can handle the weight of passengers, and more importantly, how it can hold up in the event of a crash. That’s the little-known but extremely important world of seat design and engineering, and in that world, monopost designs generally aren’t so good. That’s why you don’t see them very often.

Whether or not this design will go into production is unknown. Many patents in the automotive realm don’t evolve beyond the drawing board, but we’ll give Tesla points for offering up a clever seat design.