Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Anti dooring smart doors

I was bebopping along California Street in Mountain View, California near the Wal-Mart and Target stores last Friday evening when a door popped open immediately in front of me. If I was riding inside the "door zone," I would have been nailed. As it was, the driver and I startled each other as I whizzed by. I shouted helpful instructional hints to the dooring driver that I'm sure sound completely incomprehensible to him. The Google Maps Streetview image of this location just happens to show a cyclist riding inside the doorzone.

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Researchers at BMW and the Technical University of Munich are developing a "smart door" that can sense obstructions and provide tactile feedback by making the door more difficult to open. Right now they're just focusing on objects like lamp posts (which kind of nimrod opens a door into a lamp post?), but they plan efforts so the door can "sense the complete workspace of the door and detect people walking by the car or cycling towards it," according to this article in New Scientist.


  1. Pretty cool.

    You said "(which kind of nimrod opens a door into a lamp post?)"

    The same kind that opens a door into a pedestrian or cyclist. :-)


  2. ...what we really need are "smart door openers" rather than "smart doors"...

    ...too much technology...not enough awareness...

    ...just my p.o.v....

  3. Alan: Yeah ;-)

    BGW: Good point. More smarts needed between the ears than in the doors.

    I couldn't believe this guy -- California Street is a fairly busy bicycling corridor so the locals should know better than to open a door without looking. You have the long distance commuters like me traveling from high tech jobs, but this neighborhood is also very heavy in "folk" cyclists on discount store bikes traveling to and from the heavy retail presence along Shoreline Blvd just blocks away.

  4. Ride outside of the door zone, and the problem goes away. You are much more likely to hit a door in the door zone then to be hit from behind riding to the left of it.

  5. Here's a cheaper solution:

    Make all new car doors so that they only open 2 inches, pause for just one second, and then are able to fully swing open.

    Even that one second period of time is enough for a cyclist to react.

    Geeky details: At 15mph, that gives you warning 22 feet before potential impact. Given that the average visual reaction time is .19 seconds, you have 17.8 ft to react to a 3ft wide door. A ten degree turn is all you need to avoid the door now.

  6. @GeekGuyAndy: you have certainly earned your name.

    @Fritz: The driver may not have heard your "helpful instructions," but God did, and he may want to have a word with you in his office this Sunday. ;)

  7. Having seen my friend fly off his handlebars after an idiot in a BMW opened his door it would be great to see this technology added. All technology needs to be idiot proof because many drivers simply wont change their habit to check the mirror before they open the door. P.S. What is it in particular with BMW drivers and dooring? Soon they will be selling BMW's with added dooring ability