Photo: Kiekert

Autonomous cars, if they do in fact one day takeover the roads, will someday hopefully eliminate the need for a driver at the wheel. In that future scenario, German auto parts supplier Kiekert believes traditional door hatches also won’t be necessary. Apparently future humans will struggle with opening doors.

Kiekert spoke with Automotive News this week about its effort to—as the news outlet put it—“eliminate the need for door handles.” The company developed an electric release hatch called NuEntry that uses a suite of exterior touch sensors that can allow the door to be opened with someone’s fingertip or through a smartphone.

One potential benefit Kiekert’s touting is the weight loss achieved by eliminating traditional locking systems, Kiekert USA’s general manager, Mike Hietbrink, told Automotive News.

“You don’t need a lot of the systems that they have today in the car,” Hietbrink said. “For things like outside handles and attachments, cables, rods, sometimes reinforcements to protect the latch in the system — you don’t need any of that anymore.”

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The idea of a door that automatically opens immediately gives me pause, because car crashes are—unfortunately—inevitable, and the future world of autonomous cars means decades where robot drivers commingle with human-operated vehicles. But Kiekert says the latch of the future has a “temporary crash redundancy.” That means the latch can “switch mechanical mode in a crash so that an emergency cable or other releases could open the door,”Hector Verde, Kiekert’s director of product development of the Americas, told Automotive News.

The company also has prototypes for a system that can identify and detect obstacles near a door, and literally prompts the door to stop 1 centimeter from an object, by using an electromechanical brake. This, Kiekert says, could save your ass down the line from dealing with cosmetic fixes for dents or scratches. Another feature can allow doors to automatically open and close doors.

It’s a fun idea, but I’m not exactly sure of the need here. Perhaps it makes sense for ride-hailing pod-mobiles like so many automakers seem to be interested in making. But beyond that, what’s the point? I can’t imagine that we’ll lose the ability to open a door if autonomous cars are deployed in droves.