Talk to Me, Like Drivers Do: Ford Comes Up With a New Way to Open a Door

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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talk to me like drivers do ford comes up with a new way to open a door

The relationship between humans and cars is poised to become quite different in the years to come, or so the automakers warn promise us. Autonomous vehicles will whisk us to whatever destination we desire, simply by inputting our desired address into a navigation system or, perhaps, just by speaking it aloud. Already, the level of communication between humans and the modern car astounds.

We’ve come a long way from Chrysler’s Electronic Voice Alert, that nagging companion of the 1980s.

Now, Ford Motor Company looks ready to take our current relationship to the next level, while putting the human in charge. A U.S. patent published today describes a car that opens its doors only when it hears its master’s voice. And by “open,” we mean wide open, not just unlocked.

The patent describes a power assist device “coupled between the door and vehicle body on a hinge assembly” that’s connected to an audio sensor located on the exterior and/or interior of the vehicle. Voice command data gathered by the sensors flow to a controller, which first interprets the command, then opens (or closes) the appropriate door.

Ford’s “smart” door system would be able to apply extra muscle to the door via the power assist device if the car is parked on an incline, choosing to open it fully or stopping at any number of pre-programmed angles. Sensors would prevent the door from striking objects during the opening and closing procedures, sparing both fingers and garage-bound trash cans. The patent describes a “soft close feature” that prevents the doors from slamming with too much force, even if a occupant initiates it by hand.

Certain high-end vehicles, including the Tesla Model X, already feature doors that open by themselves when prompted by a signal, and Ford’s Lincoln Continental has portals that unlatch and open ever so slightly after sensing a hand placed inside the fixed handle. However, Ford’s system would be able to open those doors fully, and would do it after hearing your voice. This would come in handy when your arms are full of groceries.

There’s actually any number of ways the doors could receive an audio signal. Drivers could send an “open” or “close” signal via a button located on the door or within the vehicle, or by a button on the driver’s key fob. By using a “record” mode, new users could program their voice commands into the system, thus allowing the car to recognize them. Still conceptual, the wide-open patent leaves plenty of options open for the automaker. Whatever its final form, convenience will be key.

The option of manually opening one’s doors will certainly remain, but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to yell at your car and actually have it respond?

H/T to Bozi Tatarevic!

[Images: United States Patent and Trademark Office]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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2 of 31 comments
  • Sub-600 Sub-600 on Feb 14, 2018

    What if your Ford responds “I don’t care for your tone” and refuses to open the door?

  • Vulpine Vulpine on Feb 15, 2018

    I can see SO many ways that can be misused, abused and become downright deadly. It's already bad enough that people can steal your car just by relaying your key fob's signal from your bedroom to the door lock. Now someone will be able to just walk up to your car and say, "open" and drive away.

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  • TheMrFreeze This new 500e is selling really well in Europe, but here in the US the demographic that would be interested in a car like this is definitely in the minority. At $33K for this upscale model is a tough sell but hopefully incentives will come into play to make this a much more appealing option for those looking for a funky daily driver or a practical second car for the family
  • ToolGuy "EVs tend to be less efficient at higher speeds on highways than commuting around town. It’s also important to note that where you live and how you drive can have an outsized impact on range, as people with lead feet or those living in colder climates may find a significant drop in range."• Let's not forget elevation changes!Signed, Captain Obvious 🙂
  • Probert The EPA estimate is just that. Of course weather and driving habits affect the range. This is not news. The EPA tests on a combined cycle, so just running at 70 is not what the EPA numbers reflect. That said, my EV - a humble KIA Niro, freequently exceeds estimates, even on long highway runs. If most of your driving is local and stop and go, you can expect a range around 20% above estimates. The important thing is that the range estimation that the car gives you, is accurate, as it reflects your actual driver habits. Also, even with winter drops, or high speed runs, an EV is about 400% more efficient than an ICE.
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