TechnologyHeartbeat ArchiveInnovation

Open Sesame!

30. November 2022

A service once largely restricted to luxury hotels or regarded as a courteous gesture has long since become an integral part of our everyday lives. The congenial opening of doors – now no longer performed by a human hand but by special electric motors – is something we encounter everywhere.

A glimpse into the interior. The vehicle door contains an actuator from Pierburg.

Whether in hospitals, public buildings, or even in hotel parking garages, doors open as if by magic as soon as someone – hands full or not – approaches. Why shouldn’t passenger car doors open this way too? Pierburg has developed a complete solution to enable just that, and one that doesn’t just make life safer for approaching bicyclists and motorcyclists. It doesn’t take long for drivers to realize the advantages of doors that open and close automatically, a convenience that they soon wouldn’t want to do without. Developed in collaboration with a well-known automaker, the first prototypes of this new door actuator are currently being tested by the customer.

A specialist for this type of actuator, Pierburg was able to draw on its long-standing expertise in the field. The list of specifications for the new product was by no means short. Among other things, the components had to be engineered to save space; display high performance density; and meet lofty expectations with regard to acoustics. Making sure that it couldn’t self-lock in emergency situations was another key requirement. “Expectations regarding the actuator’s performance were significantly higher than even our own standard,” explains Andreas Köster, the responsible Project Manager in Pierburg’s Advanced Engineering unit, noting that “a fully equipped car door can weigh thirty or forty kilos, and has to stay in position under windy conditions and on inclines. That’s why our actuator is designed with relatively high torque.”

According to Köster, the new actuator differs fundamentally from the conventional drives used for powering electric hatchbacks, for example. The later can operate more slowly and have more leeway when it comes to noise. Conversely, Köster assumes that the side doors need to open and close in just two or two and a half seconds. A further challenge facing the developers proved to be the required compactness of the components. Because the pilot customers will be offered the electric doors as an extra, the actuator had to be easily installable in the crack of the doors. This characteristic also sets the actuator apart from rival systems. For example, if the actuator isn’t installed in the crack of the door, installation space has to be found in the interior of the door instead, without encroaching on other systems located there, e.g. loudspeakers or the windows when lowered. Here, too, the compact design helps.

But this wasn’t enough: Pierburg also had to develop the necessary software for the actuator, taking account all of the associated driving maneuvers, including moving forward and backward, stopping under adverse conditions and avoidance of overshooting. As a safety feature, the actuator is connected to the vehicle’s sensor suite. This prevents the door from opening when other road users are approaching the vehicle or when a bollard is in the way of the door. Köster sees it, this concept offers many advantages, and he envisages a clear trend toward electric doors – and not just in taxis and future autonomous vehicles. Even by themselves, the tendency to have wider opening angles, which make entering and exiting the vehicle easier, and the problem for some of having to push and pull heavy doors, will be an important factor for customer decisions in the future. It will be particularly convenient for drivers of cars that open the door in response to a keyless gesture command after they’ve automatically driven out of the garage, and then close the door again once the driver is seated. For the time being, of course, the driver will still have to do the driving from this point on.

(Article origins from 25. March 2021)

Further information can be found here.

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