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What Is it? Key Plastics (Northville, MI) calls it "Intellitouch." It does away with all of the rods, cables, counterweights, and springs of mechanical door handle units, and replaces them with a simple, drop-in electronic unit that doesn't move. A sensor located between the handle's outer shell and inner surface senses the dielectric constant of a human hand, and uses this to trigger an electric motor that unlatches the door. "This moves the focus from the lock/unlock function to the latch/unlatch function," says Rich Pudney, directory of Advanced Technology at Key Plastics, "and the electric motor from the door lock to the door latch." Not only does Intellitouch do away with conventional door handles, it eliminates separate door locks by controlling the latch function, and can be fully integrated with an OEM's keyless entry system.

But What If ...? "We've tested the prototypes under a variety of conditions," says Pudney. A gloved hand can open the door, while the spray from a car wash, a sudden downpour, or similar won't activate the latch. And shutting the door while holding the handle won't cause it to pop open because the software in the system has been designed to recognize intent. That is, a person opening a door follows a specific protocol when opening a door that doesn't apply in other situations. So the system can "read" whether or not the person holding the handle intends to open, or close the door. Even setting the latch mechanism into its lock position prior to closing the door won't trip up the system. Grabbing the handle resets the latch to its unlocked position prior to closing the door. The Intellitouch system also can be tuned to meet specific OEM requirements. Should you forget your keyless entry fob, inserting the vehicle key into a conventional door lock near the handle allows the driver to "unlock" the door. The unit draws a miniscule 15 micro amps.

Why Should You Care?

Simple: There are no moving parts, Counterweights--which keep a conventional handle from moving in an accident, and can put up to two pounds (cumulative) along the beltline--are eliminated, as is part stack-up and production variation. Doors can be made thinner. The outer door panel only needs two small holes to accommodate the bolts that hold the unit in place. Styling is improved. OEMs can drastically reduce the number of different door handles. Pinch points are eliminated. If used on a liftgate, Intellitouch can eliminate up to 50 separate pieces, allow optimal placement of the trigger mechanism (e.g. in a recessed area or behind the OEM's logo), and doesn't require the user to squeeze a rubber puck like most of the electrically triggered latches currently in use. With slight modification it can be applied to interior door handles, too. "Plus," says Pudney, "the units are fully tested before delivery. There's never any question of a faulty unit being shipped."

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Title Annotation:Parts Bin, innovations in automobile door handles
Author:Sawyer, Christopher A.
Publication:Automotive Design & Production
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2003
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