Building the autonomous door

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(October 29, 2017) Over its 160-year history, Germany’s Kiekert has produced nearly two billion vehicle latches, and taken 35 percent of the market in Europe and 25 percent in the NAFTA region., which makes it the number one locking system supplier in each market. From 66 million latches produced in 2015 to 70 million in 2017, Kiekert continues to grow.

When we last looked at Kiekert’s latching technology, its portfolio included items like the E-Latch, an electrically actuated door latching system, the LED Latch, a latch that includes an LED light in the latch body and eliminates the separate lights and reflectors of conventional systems, and i-Protect, a latching system that uses cameras and sensors and an electromechanical brake on the door check to prevent an occupant from opening the door into oncoming traffic or a nearby object.

To this it has added i-Move, an “intelligent movement” system that opens and closes the door via an electrically powered door check. Pressing a button within the vehicle activates the system and opens the door. It also can be activated by pressing a key fob or via a proximity key.

Combining the E-Latch (now called the NuEntry Latch) with i-Protect and i-Move creates what Kiekert cheekily refers to as an “autonomous” door.

i-Protect uses cameras, sensors and an electromechanical door check brake to prevent occupants from opening their door into traffic or nearby objects

No, it won’t drive you to your destination while you read a book, but it will open and close the door with little to no human intervention, while detecting and avoiding any potential obstacles. This may seem like an over-the-top answer to a question nobody asked, but it promises to be a next-level technology for future luxury vehicles. Much like pushbutton start and proximity entry systems, the extra convenience should appeal to a number of buyers.

I-Move adds electric power to the door check, making it possible to open and close a door without human intervention

The NuEntry Latch debuted this year on a high-end luxury sedan, and will reduce the weight and complexity of the locking system. Though touch sensors can be used to eliminate the need for separate door handles, it’s likely that OEMs will incorporate a short-stroke door handle that also incorporates the sensor for the keyless entry system. Pulling on the handle would simultaneously unlock and open the door, and retain the sense of familiarity decades of door handle use has created.

The i-Protect system will enter volume production by 2020, and be joined soon thereafter by i-Move. It should not take long before insurance companies begin to offer discounts for vehicles equipped with i-Protect, speeding its adoption. Adding i-Move will give automakers the ability to differentiate vehicles at different price levels by adding this module.

The Virtual Driver