Ford Patents Voice-Activated Car Doors

Ford was among the first automakers to bring hands-free tailgate technology to the masses in its Escape compact crossover. But as a February 13 patent filing shows, the automaker is now looking to the next stage of hands-free functionality with car passenger doors that open and close in response to voice commands.

In its filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Ford describes (in the usual dizzying level of detail) its idea for equipping a car with a motorized door fitted with a microphone that will open and close when you issue a voice command of your choice.

It's not hard to find a car that's at least available with a hands-free trunk or tailgate or, in the case of minivans, a sliding side door that will open without the need for a human's touch. But most such features respond to a kick of a foot under a bumper or simply standing next to the car with a passive keyless entry fob on your person.

Ford's door would also include proximity sensors that would watch for nearby objects (walls; other cars) so the door doesn't swing into something and take a dent or scratch. Ford's patent also suggests the idea of setting the door to open just partway, something many hands-free tailgates allow in case the car is parked in a low-ceilinged garage.

The voice command idea is new for the way a driver interacts with it, but also because it would be the first automaker to apply the tech to a hinged passenger door. At first blush, it's a questionable idea. But consider a parent carrying a child -- either sleeping or not yet ambulatory -- to the car: being able to command a door open by voice could be a convenient thing.

Other recent Ford patents have included steering wheel-mounted transmission controls and a sliding pickup truck bed.

Open, says me 2/16/2018 11:47:17 PM