The German automaker wants to make interiors sleeker and more elegant by removing as many bulky components as possible.
CarBuzz has exclusively discovered a new patent that Volkswagen filed with the German Patent and Trade Mark Office for gesture-controlled interior door handles.
The invention seeks to replace traditional, manually operated interior door handles with a panel that sees the handle flush-fitted to the door panel with no recess for the motorist's fingers. Instead, when a person's hand is detected moving toward the recessed handle, an actuator or a spring mechanism would pop the handle out, allowing one to grab it and release the door catch.
A touch-sensitive door lock interface is also proposed, and the motivation behind this is to improve aesthetics and reduce the number of components used in a door.
The patent mentions that existing door handles typically include an additional module and button for locking and unlocking the door(s), adding unnecessary complexity to the door. Thus, VW suggests using a touch capacitive slider panel with color-specific backlighting.
Slide a finger over the panel from one side to the other, and its LEDs could change from red to green to indicate that the door is now unlocked. The reverse would apply to locking the door. Once the door is unlocked, a proximity sensor could detect the presence of outstretched fingers and release the handle, allowing an occupant to grab it and open the door. When the user wants to drive off, the handle could automatically recede, or one could push it back into place, and it would sit flush with the door panel again.
To ensure that the door handle does not present itself when not needed, the patent describes deactivating the proximity sensor when the car is in motion, thereby preventing an occupant from opening the door when it is unsafe. The invention has several benefits from a design perspective and will surely reduce weight, but we foresee some issues that are not explicitly addressed.
In the event of a crash, it may be impossible to open the door or even unlock it without some manual override, which is not mentioned. Another drawback is that the patent says that each door handle would be linked to its nearest seat and would only deploy if the seat is occupied. This means that a driver would be unable to lean over the passenger seat to open it for a companion outside the car whose hands may be full, for example.
It's unclear when this sort of thing could make production or if it will be as advantageous as suggested, but it appears that Volkswagen wants all aspects of door handle design to be more streamlined. Last year, CarBuzz discovered that the automaker filed a patent for hidden exterior door handles. Perhaps the next Volkswagen ID.4 will feature both systems, but we hope that they have failsafes - Tesla owners in freezing conditions will attest to the fact that visually pleasing design is not always satisfying in practice.
Interestingly, Hyundai is also working on gesture-controlled door handles, but for the exterior of the car. Are these inventions necessary, and will they offer greater convenience, or do they add a level of electronic complexity that we can do without? Time will tell.
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