Tata-owned Jaguar Land Rover says it has developed a car door that opens automatically as the driver approaches or can be operated by gesture control.
The 'mobility door' prototype, currently being tested on a Range Rover Sport, uses motion sensors and existing keyless entry technology to detect the driver as they walk towards the vehicle before automatically opening the door to welcome them.
JLR says the technology could help disabled people for whom a car is their main mode of transport. JLR says that as many as a third of whom report practical difficulties in their daily usage. In addition, it has benefits for those carrying child seats or large items as the driver no longer has to struggle to free a hand to open the door.
Once on board, occupants can close the mobility door with an overhead button – without the need to reach out and pull the door shut. Software built into the infotainment system shows the status of each door and allows operation of the driver and passenger doors from inside the cabin.
Radar sensors on the driver's door detect lamp posts or other obstacles to stop the door swinging open and bumping into objects. The door can also be programmed to close and lock behind you as you walk away.
Jaguar Land Rover is working with a gold medal-winning Invictus athlete to trial the system. Former Royal Marine Commando Mark Ormrod is Britain's first triple amputee from the Afghanistan conflict.
Mark Ormrod said: "This innovative Jaguar Land Rover technology would be such a benefit to me and has real power to change lives for those who face problems getting in and out of the car. Opening and closing the car door may seem like such an insignificant task to many people but sometimes it's the small, everyday obstacles which people take for granted that are most frustrating to overcome for those living with disabilities."
Jaguar Land Rover research engineers developed the system on a laboratory rig over six months before testing it on a Range Rover Sport. As well as helping disabled people, they also see the technology as relevant to all future vehicles.
Xu Zhou, Deep Learning Technical Research Manager at Jaguar Land Rover added: "The mobility door is an exciting piece of technology that offers a real-world value to our customers. There's also something very welcoming about the door opening on your approach – something we think will be greatly valued as we become more familiar with shared mobility."