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"Interior: Touch sensitive door handles"

In another thread it was mentioned that the Model S Specs page now contains warranty information. Tesla seems to be silently updating the Specs page as they go.

I quickly glanced over and found another bit of info that I did not notice before. I am not sure it is actually new, but I am sure it has not yet been discussed here. "Touch sensitive door handles", in the "Interior" section.

I cannot map that information to the interior door handles I've seen on the beta models so far. They are stylish and maybe a bit unusually shaped, but definitely regular physical levers. So either I am mistaking this, or the interior door handles are to be replaced with something completely different. Someone mentioned that the finish of the door handles is not as smooth and polished as it should be in a car of this class. Maybe that's an entirely moot point then.

I checked out the Fisker Karma at the Geneva Motor Show, and its got door open buttons instead of levers. I absolutely loved them, I had to try them over and over again. When you push the button (not much more than actually touching it), the door pops open and the window of the frameless door rolls down a bit as these windows do. The response is instantaneous, one single action that feels very light, easy, natural. So much so that I was wondering why we haven't been opening car doors like that for years.

Of course, I expect that the button does not respond when the car is in motion, and it is in a place where I think you'd rarely push it accidentally. If that's the route Tesla wants to go for the Model S, don't hesitate! I am looking forward to it.

My concern with "reliability" isn't that the mechanism won't work, but that I'll have 5mm of ice encrusting the door. When this happens, it takes brute force to open the door.

  • What happens if the window can't roll down?
  • If I can get the window down the needed distance to clear the seals, can I use the exterior handle to really pull the door open, breaking off the remaining ice?

Cabin pre-heating may help here a lot, especially with the windows.

I visited the Bellevue store the other day to inquire about the interior touch door handles. The Assistant Manager Dan Cronin seemed confused about this. I showed him on the TM website that it showed the interior touch door handles as standard. He said he would have to check into that. This was his response.

It's a mistake.
We're gonna update the site ASAP.
Thanks for catching that. It was great to meet you today.
Next time you come by, I owe you a key chain : )
- Dan Cronin was later that day the web site updated to show aluminium interior door handles.

My concern with "reliability" isn't that the mechanism won't work, but that I'll have 5mm of ice encrusting the door. When this happens, it takes brute force to open the door. (Robert.Boston)

There is an entire thread about this very issue:

There has been mentioning that the exterior door handles themselves will contain heating elements to eliminate the icing issue. I haven't seen this stated anywhere on the website, though.

@VB: it's not just the handles, though -- the biggest problem comes at the seal between the window and the car, because the window has to drop a cm or so before the door can be opened.

It would be particularly bad on a day of freezing, wind-blown rain followed by plummeting temperatures. It might be good to keep a bottle of BrianH's antifreeze ( for those days.

You'd still need to clear most of the glass to drive. So what is there but to keep the de-icing tools where you can get at them: trunk? frunk?

If, after clearing the view, the glass is still stuck, a lack of center console would make it easier to climb in from another door or the rear.

the biggest problem comes at the seal between the window and the car, because the window has to drop a cm or so before the door can be opened. (Robert.Boston)

I know what you mean, but I'm not sure this is a problem. Many frameless doors open just fine with the window up. It is only when you close the door, that to ensure a perfect fit, the window should be rolled down a little bit, and then move up only when the door is already firmly closed. I think that usually the door would actually even close just fine with the window completely up, it's only that the minimal roll-down/roll-up of the window reduces stress on the seals and the windows, and ensures the longevity of the seal.

I may be wrong, though, and/or the Model S may be different than other frameless doors I have experienced (mostly on rented cabriolets, so I did not care too much about the details).

Frameless doors are not new, so this problem should be well understood in the industry, but I've never personally lived with it. My guess is that, as Volker mentioned, when you open it, the window has enough flex to escape the seal (it's usually pressed against the seal, not inserted into a slot) even if it doesn't retract. If you close it and the mechanism isn't working then I think the worst you would do is that the window would be flexed outward and not have a good seal, but the door would be closed and the window would not break, you'd simply have an air leak until you can lower and raise the window. I'm pretty sure opening and closing the door without the drop mechanism working would be a required test if only for "emergency battery dead operation" (or in the case of TM, battery depleted to "no more juice until you plug me in" levels).

Helpful replies, all; thanks.

Robert - Window sealing / door closing should not be an issue. My Mercedes SL has the same auto-pull-down-on-open feature.

Doors will open and close even if the auto-pull down fails and the window is full up (none of my 4 SL's ever failed though)

The glass rides largely outside the seal, so it can indeed close by pinching past the slight overlap of the seal.

The reason for the 6mm pull-down when they are open is to reduce wear on the seal, and to manage air pressure in the car. This allows you to close the door more gently since you don't have to slam hard to overcome the slight overlap or the air pressure build-up.

The SL actually deploys both the front and rear quarter windows when you open a door. The small cracks are enough to burp the air out and let the door close gracefully.

I didn't compare it with the beta carefully, but I wouldn't think TM would do it differently.

Very helpful; thanks, Mark.

Just pre-heat the car before you need it to help soften/ melt any ice.

Preheating the car can work most times, but I had an incident this winter where freezing rain encased my car in almost 1/2" of ice. The only way I could get in was the hatch. It was 45 minutes with the defroster on full blast before I could get the driver door open. I still had to scrape a layer of ice above an air gap where the ice had melted away on the windshield.

Still, a pretty rare occurrence, which I hope to avoid by parking in the garage.

For what it's worth, at the Santana Row event, I noticed two things:

1) The capacitative sensor for the door handle worked better for me when I reached into the handle from below, so I think the sensor is there.

2) The handle also moves when pulled, so if you don't trigger the sensor or it's not working for some reason, I believe the physical pull on the handle will unlatch the door.

Just played with the doors in a new beta sig at the LA store. It's clear now how they work. Here's some more definitive info:

It senses the initial motion of the handle (likely thru an opto sensor on the lever itself), and that actuates the unlatch motor.

For safety, there is a backup linkage that can mechanically unlatch the door even if the motor/electronics fails. You just pull farther to actuate the mechanical override.

With this design, there is no need to capacitively sense your fingers, and it works great wIth a gloved hand. It also does a great job rejecting false input from inadvertent touch. Your fingers must be inside the well and tug slightly on the lever to signal that you want it to open.

TM's engineers did a superb job thinking through this solution.

It makes the Fisker pushbutton / separate emergency pull look absolutely amateurish by comparison.

Score another win for TM.

More evidence of a culture with fhe right stuff to get them through launch.

Mark K, Is your description of interior or exterior door handles or both? Thanks.

The description appears to be on-topic -- looks like the interior handle is being described especially since compared to the Fisker button in same post.

Roger that, I described the interior handles.

Right now, the exterior handles are in engineering test. However, TM may implement a similar scheme. Soft touch for normal use, and pull firmer for mechanical override.

We'll see when the first samples arrive.

One other observation:

The latch mechanical parts look to be from the Daimler parts bin. That's a good thing. Those are well-established as to performance and crash-safety.

Very smart for TM to leverage existing best practices parts where possible, and focus instead on the breakthrough elements of the Model S.

I asked about the touch sensitive interior door handles at the SR store today but they had no idea what I was talking about. The only touch sensitive part according to the TM person in the store is the external handle that slides out on touch (or, with the tech package, it will slide out when it senses the key). Unlatching the door from the inside is always a mechanical action.

* confused *

I had the same experience as Eric.

The interior door latches on the current betas is electrical with partial pull which opens the door, then mechanical linkage kicks in when pulled out farther. I expect this is a safety feature. I tried this several times to confirm.

Huh. I never noticed that. I guess I must have just pulled all the way and pushed.

Sorry about the size. I'm just happy I figured out how to attach an image.

Anyways, for those of you interested in what the door looks like. This is a picture from the March 18th event.

I mean that if you pull the handle part way a servo engages and unlatches the door. If you pull the latch fully you engage a mechanical link to open the door. I expect that this is to avoid mechanical damage to the servo that is needed for the outside door latch. I did not notice a touch only sensor. This also allows egress after a crash or malfunction.

I guess I didn't figure out how to insert pictures. Sorry.

Use the standard 'img' tags, pointing at a web address (pix must be hosted somewhere online).

Fisker Atlantic

@Brian H: but you need to use the sizing controls if you want to get the image to a workable size.

While we are still off-topic...

Fisker's inspiration:

It's the red teeth that always get me ...

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