With the advent of autonomous cars are coming new requirements, not only in regards to propulsion or sensors, but also for seemingly mundane and simple things such as doors. And if we admit, today’s car doors are not very comfortable for entering a car. How you open them and enter the car often comes close to a gymnastics exercise. For older people and passengers with luggage that’s often an obstacle.
Insofar, we need new approaches, and because with robotaxis the requirement for ‘cool designs’ become less important, designers can focus on usability. Volkswagen with their autonomous shuttle bus Sedric has started tackling this topic and presented multiple concepts, of how the doors could look like.
The focus here is on big entrance doors, which either move upwards or slide to the side. With such doors, no B-pillar is possible (or required), as they are used in most of today’s passenger vehicles. The doors can slide to the side or upwards.
To make entering the car comfortable, also the vehicle’s floor has to be low, with a higher roof. To succeed, the cars either have to have a low floor – the floor which also contains the batteries of the electric shuttle – or the vehicle lowers hydraulically, as is done with a lot of public buses today.
Other autonomous car developers have had the same experience with the comfort of door concepts. Robotaxi-startup Voyage has been using its vehicles in gated communities for retirees in San Jose in California and in Florida. The average age of Voyage’s passengers is at 76 years, and they often are fragile and have canes or walkers with them, which makes entering a regular passenger car difficult for them. That is also one reason why Voyage switched from Ford Fusions to Fiat Chrysler Pacifica minivans, the same vehicles Waymo uses for its service.
Renault as well has shown new door concepts with EZ-GO, specifically designed for autonomous vehicles. One thing is certain: we will see even more concepts as soon as autonomous cars become a common element in our mobility.
This article was also published in German.