Rivian’s premium, full-size R1T EV pickup truck and R1S EV SUV feature many innovative details offering buyers more performance and more “bang for their buck.” As just one example, Rivian’s engineers built a “gear tunnel” with 11.6 cubic feet of storage under the R1T pickup’s rear seats.
Accessible from both sides of the vehicle, the tunnel can be used as a plain storage space. Alternately, owners can install drawer-like “shuttles” with power outlets that slide out to make stowed items even more accessible.
The company also offers a $5,000 camp kitchen fitting into the gear tunnel for cookouts on the trail. Aspiring campground chefs, or people with lots of gear to stow, get extra benefits from the gear tunnel.
But Rivian is also unlocking more functions by adding new software programming for its EVs’ existing hardware. The latest update is Kneel Mode, which eases climbing into or out of a Rivian truck or SUV for smaller owners.
Those weary from a long day on the road or trail will probably also appreciate it. Kneel Mode joins the existing Camp Mode as one of Rivian electric vehicle “tricks” to make life a bit easier.
Rivian R1T and R1S Camp Mode: What It Is
Both Kneel Mode and the previously launched Camp Mode add an extra function to Rivian vehicles using their air suspension. The company engineered the R1S SUV and R1T pickup with air suspension from the start.
The company states that the adjustable suspension’s purpose is to give “improved handling, comfort, aerodynamics and stability with varying payloads.” Automated systems use the suspension to adapt to attached trailers for a more stable ride when towing.
Ground clearance changes between 7.9 inches and 14.4 inches depending on settings, as well as 6.5 inches of travel. The vehicles rest on tough, inflated rubber cylinders instead of steel leaf or coil springs, MotorBiscuit reports.
Similarly, optional air springs have been available for other vehicles for years but come standard on all Rivian R1 EVs. An onboard air compressor pumps precise amounts of air in or out of the springs to raise or lower the whole vehicle.
Easily adjusting suspension ride height lets users choose the best stance for a given situation. Lowering the springs lowers the center of gravity, which is good for staying stable with a trailer swaying around behind the EV.
Raising the springs helps clamber nimbly over off-road obstacles, whether rock crawling or avoiding getting high centered on a deeply rutted trail. A medium height may be best for typical road and highway driving, combining decent stability with good driver visibility.
Camp Mode: How It Works
Typical air suspension adjustments raise or lower all four corners of the R1T or R1S by the same amount. This can be useful for standard tasks like clearing rocks and stumps off-road or pulling a boat trailer to the seaside. However, Rivian takes the idea a step further with Camp Mode, a software update released in late August 2022.
When camping, a driver usually parks on uneven ground or a gentle slope, with perfectly level spots being rare in the wilderness. Opting to switch on Camp Mode is a command from a Rivian owner to their EV to level itself.
As Rivian’s press release describes, the EV uses sensors to raise or lower the four air springs individually. The air suspension adapts to the ground’s contour to get the vehicle’s floor flat and level.
The Rivian EV notifies the owner if the ground is too uneven or the slope is too steep for successful leveling. The autonomous leveling process, once started, takes anywhere from 20 seconds to several minutes to complete.
A level vehicle offers a lot of potential advantages while camping. For example, it helps keep the aforementioned gear tunnel camp kitchen flat so pots and pans don’t slide off the cooktop.
Similarly, stowed equipment won’t shift toward one side or the other of the pickup bed when unfastened from tie-downs. Rooftop tents are more comfortable when gravity isn’t pulling occupants and their sleeping bags toward one of the edges.
Rivian’s Camp Mode includes other features, too. These include timers for power outlet operation so that they switch on or off after a set time.
A “camp courtesy” mode mutes vehicle notification sounds, turns off exterior lights, and lowers climate control operation to a more hushed level. For safety, Camp Mode only starts when the EV is parked and isn’t charging.
Kneel Mode: The Latest Rivian Convenience
Rivian followed up on the late-August Camp Mode software update with another major update two months later on October 27th. The changes arrived as an over-the-air update, just like the Camp Mode upgrade before them.
Kneel Mode uses the air suspension to adjust the EV’s suspension height to about 10 inches. This makes it easier for smaller people, kids, or tired and elderly individuals to get into or out of the R1T or R1S.
The lower suspension height can also make loading or unloading the EV easier. The bed and cargo area are lower to the ground as a result, making them more accessible. The same applies to the gear tunnel on the R1T pickup.
Rivian set numerous limits on the Kneel Mode to maintain full safety. The kneeling process takes about 5 seconds in most cases but likely takes more if the suspension height is set at the 14.4-inch maximum.
Kneeling pauses if a door is opened and doesn’t resume until all doors are closed. Once the EV is “kneeling” it stays that way until the user starts driving. Kneeling is reversed and the air springs reinflate to standard ride height as soon as the vehicle surpasses 5 mph.
The software engineers set up Kneel Mode to only be available when the EV is parked. The starting ride height must be Standard and the drive mode set to All-Purpose and Conserve. At this point, Kneel Mode becomes a menu option the driver can toggle on or off as desired. The owner needs to navigate to Settings, Vehicle, and Access to reach the option.
Other Simultaneous Updates
Kneel Mode was just one major piece of a larger update Rivian issued at the time. Most of the adjustments were relatively small but helped add more utility to the vehicles’ systems. Rivian’s press release says the changes include several improved interfaces, including an easier radio interface and new app controls.
At least some of the changes could also complement Camp Mode, streamlining the function of Rivian’s Gear Guard system. Gear Guard is a five-camera monitoring system watching and recording people (or animals) who closely approach an R1T or R1S while parked.
The owner can configure the system to send an alarm to their smartphone app. The new update helps the Gear Guard distinguish between possible intruders and motionless objects like trees or bushes.
This reduces the number of “false positives” and, Rivian claims, cuts unnecessary videos by 50%. Rivian also designed the update to make many small incremental boosts to software performance. Some have concrete effects, like making Level 2 AC battery recharging slightly faster.
Others simply add a little more useful data to displays. For example, the navigation system that shows distance to nearby chargers now also shows the likely amount of charge and range remaining when the driver gets to each charger.
Rivian’s New Modes and the Future
Rivian’s vehicle releases have had a few hiccups lately, including a dramatic recall over incorrectly torqued steering bolts. The company apparently caught the problem before any accidents occurred, dealing with it quickly and efficiently.
MotorBiscuit reports that there are also problems with the R1T pickup’s powered tonneau cover. Rivian intends to deliver new trucks with a manual tonneau cover until it can devise a successful fix.
However, Rivian’s addition of Kneel Mode and Camp Mode to existing vehicles through an over-the-air update shows the company is working to dynamically improve its EVs. Instead of just selling the vehicle “as is” from the showroom, Rivian is using the possibilities of modern technology to give the R1Ts and R1Ss of existing customers fresh capabilities.
This ongoing support for owners and drivers of Rivian vehicles is a positive sign for the company’s future. It also shows outside-the-box thinking on Rivian’s part, finding new software-driven uses for existing hardware on its vehicles.
The air suspension feature, first intended to easily adjust ride height for towing or off-roading, now offers two new uses. These include lowering the EV for easier entry, exit, or loading, and leveling the EV on bumpy ground to make cooking a trail meal or sleeping easier. Customers can probably look forward to getting inventive new uses for existing hardware in the future, too.