"Interior: Touch sensitive door handles"

"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.

Volker.Berlin | 21 mars 2012

In the "Safety" section it says: "Interior, manual release mechanism for all doors, frunk, and rear cargo area".

I take that as additional confirmation that the primary release mechanism for the doors is not a mechanical lever, but an electrically powered system.

discoducky | 21 mars 2012

I'm hoping that it's similar to the Karma's interior door release button. And hope they design such that it will only open when you want it to. I could imagine a button on the side of the door where you can't easily bump it, but could press it and then could move your hand down slightly to grab onto the door as it opens.

Mycroft | 21 mars 2012

Volker, that would match up with reports we've been seeing about how the exterior handles work. i.e. pulling on the handle doesn't open the door, touching the handle does. So there's a very slight delay when you grab the handle and the door pops open.

I don't know how that works with gloves on though. Is there a pressure sensitive switch as well, so that when you pull the handle, it sets it off and likewise on the interior switch?

I'll be so glad when I get my car and all will, FINALLY, be revealed.

steven.maes | 21 mars 2012

I am not sure where I have read it, but wasn't the opening of the handle triggered when aproaching with the key in your pocket ?

blurry_eyed | 21 mars 2012

I believe there is a pressure sensitive switch on the inside of the exterior door handle. So when it pops out and you put your hand in the door handle, you don't really pull the door open, it will just pop open when you put enough pressure on the switch.

I didn't experience this in person, but this information was relayed to me by someone who was at the Santana Row store this weekend.

steven.maes | 21 mars 2012

I have also seen this on one of the video's on youtube, I think with Franz explaining things. If I recall correctly, you push the handle, it will come out of the door, and the door will open automatically.

Jason S | 21 mars 2012

Specs page is the base car. Tech package could include things like this.

Wait and see, I think.

Volker.Berlin | 21 mars 2012

I am pretty confident I know this for sure:

I am not sure where I have read it, but wasn't the opening of the handle triggered when aproaching with the key in your pocket ? (steven.maes)

When approaching the car with the key fob in your pocket (w/ Tech Package) or when pressing the unlock button on the key fob (w/o Tech Package), the car unlocks and the door handles extend, but the doors stay closed.

If I recall correctly, you push the handle, it will come out of the door, and the door will open automatically. (steven.maes)

No. That was/is the way the prototypes and betas work b/c the key fob function is not yet in place.

steven.maes | 21 mars 2012

Thx for clearing that out.

Volker.Berlin | 21 mars 2012

Taking all these comments together makes a lot of sense.

1. Since the Model S has frameless side windows, these must roll down slightly, so some electrons need to be moved anyway when the door is opened.

2. Since the exterior door handles extend and retract, it is probably mechanically challenging to attach a physical lever to them. This may also explain why at the ride event and at all shows so far, the Tesla employees consistently use the interior door handle (physical lever) to open the doors. I have yet to see someone actually opening the door from the outside, using the exterior door handle. To resolve this issue, it is probably easier (and more reliable) to add a sensor/button/switch, cable, microchip and actuator, than piecing together a mechanical solution.

3. Now that we have an actuator-driven door-opening mechanism, it's probably again easier to implement an open-by-wire solution for the interior handle as well, than have a lever there that needs to interact with the actuator setup. Therefore Tesla must practically resort to touch sensitive interior door buttons in place of traditional levers.

This argument applies regardless of the Tech Package, because even the base car has "flush mounted exterior door handles".

I just hope the overall package works as smoothly as the Fisker Karma I tried. For the Wow-effect to happen (and to prevent frequent little frustrating moments) the door must pop open instantaneously with just the right amount of "pop". :-) Those Fisker doors are way better implemented than your average button-operated hatch which usually only opens at the moment when you think that you forgot to unlock it because it does not respond (immediately).

BYT | 21 mars 2012

@Volker, I opened the doors on I think all 4 Model S' at the SR event and aside from one that stuck in the rear driver side passenger side from overuse (one of the Beta Models) the handle worked great. I kept pushing it, waited for the door handle to slide out, wrapped my hand around it and the door popped itself open for me, all I had to do was pull. When I closed the door, a few seconds later the handle pulled back into it's channel and I could once again press it to have it slide out. My wife, a tiny Chinese gal, 4'9.5" (I have to add the .5 or she get's angry) had some trouble getting the door to trigger an open. She kept trying to open the door on one side or the other, not necessarily in the middle so maybe the sensor was there? Anyway, wanted to share my experience with the door handles specifically.

olanmills | 21 mars 2012

I noticed this back during the update too, and I think it sounds pretty cool.

steven.maes | 21 mars 2012

Reading these posts made me wonder. Suppose the door handle doesn't pop out when you press it. Suppose the mechanism is broken/malfunctioning. What will be the backup plan when the handle is overused ? Will the door itself still go open because you pressed the door handle ? Hope the other handles still work and crawl your way into the car through the door in the back ? Perhaps an open-by-wire solution is not so bad after all...

Volker.Berlin | 22 mars 2012

I opened the doors on I think all 4 Model S' at the SR event and aside from one that stuck in the rear driver side passenger side from overuse (one of the Beta Models) the handle worked great. [...] (BYT)

Very interesting and good to hear! I still assume that the push that triggers extension of the handle is just a stand-in while the key fob function is not yet in place. It is reassuring to learn that Tesla does have some mechanism in place at this time that is actually working (even though we know that it will be changed/improved for production). :-) Thanks for sharing!

dhawan | 23 mars 2012

Being touch activated (as apposed to pressure) would be a problem in cold climates when people are wearing gloves. Kinda like the iPhone.

Ron5 | 23 mars 2012

There are more than two types of touch-sensitivity, but the most common two are: resistive and capacitive. Capacitive works with gloves. I think we already heard that the infotainment screen uses this, so I would assume the handle is the same.

Actually, the way I read the reports from SR, it seemed like you didn't necessarily have to touch, and just needed to put your hand in there. I was figuring it to be infrared.

ddruz | 23 mars 2012

The chrome handle still looks like it is there on the in-store version of the design studio in this pic from last weekend:

Does this have any bearing on the above discussions?

Volker.Berlin | 23 mars 2012

I have no idea. The official pics made available to those lucky Sig reservation holders that have to make their choices now, do not reveal whether or not the handle is there. Coincidence?

BYT | 23 mars 2012

When I touched it, I also gave it a little push so it didn't appear to be the touch that mattered so mush as the little push in the Beta Models.

discoducky | 23 mars 2012

@BYT, that is how I would expect it to work so I'm happy to know that's how it worked for you. It's intuitive to press with a little force and then grab the door to control it's motion.

Sudre_ | 23 mars 2012

Hey in cold weather if you have gloves on just use your tongue!?!

BYT | 23 mars 2012

@Sudre, I can see the headlines on that one! The Daily News Headlines, "Man Love His Model S a Little TOOO Much!"

DarrellH | 23 mars 2012

The young lady that was demonstrating the touchscreen at the Santana Row event was wearing gloves and she had no problem working the touchscreen.

ModelS3P | 23 mars 2012

The Specs page now just says "Aluminum interior door handles."

Volker.Berlin | 24 mars 2012

The Specs page now just says "Aluminum interior door handles." (Longhorn92)

Wow. That tells us two things. First, once again, Tesla does indeed read the forums. And second, this thread is entirely pointless. ;-)

Mark K | 24 mars 2012

SR beta news sounds very encouraging, and looks like TM has made very good progress on the door handles.

I only saw a beta in Jan that had inoperative handles, but here's how I'd reconcile the seemingly conflicting facts-

Mechanical backup is required for life safety, so I'm guessing TM has configured it as follows:

1. Aluminum interior mechanical handles

2. Capacitive touch sensor (set to thru-glove sensitivity) wired to the aluminum handle to form a sensor plate.


Touch the interior handle and the door latch motor activates, unlatching the door.

If you pull the handle, that works too, but once you get used to the easy-out, you just stop doing the extra work to pull.

This is a very smart architecture to help folks easily transition to a better way, and also makes emergency exit obvious..

By contrast, Fisker separated the mechanical backup to a second physical handle in a much lower, less visible position.

Like you Volker, I really liked Fisker's design detailing and materials finishes for the door and window switches. They are brushed stainless steel, and impeccable. However Fisker's architecture of two separate areas for primary and backup controls is needlessly obscure, and scary if you're panicking to get out.

Style matters a lot, but it must never trump substance. If my inference of TM's design is correct, score another win for TM over the competition.

A car can aspire to be beautiful sculpture, but it must also deliver high functionality. TM's thoughtful blend of refined design and intelligent engineering is the winning ethic to build a better car.

Mark K | 24 mars 2012

On reliability:

Today's brushless dc motors are very reliable, delivering multimillion cycle life. They have a single moving part. A one inch diameter motor can operate the door latch, and is very low cost now.

In many cases, a brushless motor actuator ends up being more reliable than the many mechanical linkage parts it replaces, which I think is true here. (In this case it's even more reliable because you have two fully redundant systems, which can each open the door).

If you build a car around mastery of electric propulsion, you have the competency to use electric drives to replace legacy mechanisms in these small areas too, so why not go for it?

Taking even the prosaic door handle and bringing to it a new level of refinemnent in feel and function will be a very cool advance for customers, and another differentiator for the Model S.

Next question is whether the touch feature is only on the tech package.

BYT | 25 mars 2012

Touch is standard and it opens automatically with the Tech Package, handle just pops out for you when you approach.

Mark K | 25 mars 2012

The preemptive pop-out when you approach the handles with the fob in pocket is certainly part of the tech package, but BYT were you able to confirm that that the interior touch release is standard?

BYT | 25 mars 2012

Oh, interior? Missed that, I was referring to the external, sorry for the confusion on my part.

Robert.Boston | 25 mars 2012

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.

ebm | 25 mars 2012

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.

Volker.Berlin | 26 mars 2012

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.

Robert.Boston | 26 mars 2012

@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.

EdG | 26 mars 2012

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.

Volker.Berlin | 26 mars 2012

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).

flar | 26 mars 2012

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).

Robert.Boston | 26 mars 2012

Helpful replies, all; thanks.

Mark K | 27 mars 2012

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.

Robert.Boston | 27 mars 2012

Very helpful; thanks, Mark.

CurrieG | 29 mars 2012

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

Teoatawki | 29 mars 2012

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.

Michael37 | 29 mars 2012

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.

Mark K | 1 april 2012

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.

ddruz | 2 april 2012

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

Jason S | 2 april 2012

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.

Mark K | 3 april 2012

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.

Erik M. | 4 april 2012

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.

Volker.Berlin | 5 april 2012

* confused *

Crow | 5 april 2012

I had the same experience as Eric.