The technology behind car doors that open and close by themselves isn’t so new anymore. During our family vacation in the United States in 2001, my uncle took us around in a Toyota Sienna minivan equipped with electric sliding doors. However, Jaguar Land Rover is currently working on something that may one day let the humble motor vehicle door be more than just a physical shield against the outside world.
Called the “mobility door,” it’s basically a regular car door that’s intelligent enough to detect your presence and respond actively by assisting your ingress into and egress from the vehicle. It essentially becomes an electronic valet by opening and closing on its own, without you telling it to do so on the fly. This makes it different from current systems mainly used by people-carriers where the door will only operate once you give the command via buttons on the key fob.
By making use of existing keyless entry systems, the door can sense your proximity to the car and open by itself. Once you’re inside, the door closes with a push of a button so you don’t have to reach out for the door handle. But this feature won’t be limited to the driver’s door only. The infotainment system will have additional software to remotely operate all doors from inside the cabin.
Jaguar Land Rover’s real purpose for this system goes far beyond enhanced practicality for able-bodied people
To make sure that the door doesn’t whack into a low curb or a lamppost, it’s equipped with sensors that detect obstacles surrounding it. And for the ultimate hands-free experience, you can also set the door to close and lock on its own as you move away from your vehicle.
Now, the practical advantages of this system are obvious. Having the door open automatically allows you to load large items or fit a child seat in a more seamless manner. However, Jaguar Land Rover’s real purpose for this system goes far beyond enhanced practicality for able-bodied people.
One of the guys assisting Jaguar Land Rover in its research-and-development efforts is Mark Ormrod. Mark is a triple amputee as a result of an improvised explosive device that went off during a routine foot patrol as a Royal Marines commando in Afghanistan. According to him, opening a car door may seem like an “insignificant task,” but for the physically challenged, this simple act is a frustrating obstacle as they go on with their daily lives.
What started out as a mere value-added convenience is now paving the way to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities. We wish Jaguar Land Rover every success in this endeavor, and hope that other automakers will do the same.