Ford Has a New Way To Tell if You Left the Garage Door Open

If you can't remember whether you closed the garage door when leaving to work in a hurry this morning, you're not alone. Such things happen to each and every one of us regularly, and scientists have a good explanation for it.
Ford's idea is still in the patent stage 8 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution/Overhead Door
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Our brains are trained to do repetitive things, such as automatically opening and closing the garage door. As a result, when we do this, we don't necessarily realize it. We just open the garage door, start the engine, start driving, and then close the door.

It might look like we're turning into robots, but this is how the brain works. Sometimes we're preoccupied or distracted, but our brains know precisely what to do when getting behind the wheel.

On the other hand, the thought of leaving the garage door open sometimes haunts us the entire way, making it hard to concentrate on other things. Occasionally, we turn around to see if the garage door is closed or call our significant other for the one-millionth time to ask them the same thing.

Ford believes it can resolve the drama with an automatic approach that lets the vehicle record information on the garage door's status without any human intervention. And if you still need confirmation that you closed the garage door, the car can provide proof.

A patent called "using a vehicle to identify a status of a garage door" describes Ford's idea to address the problem, and contrary to what I expected, it doesn't rely on a smart home. Smart garage doors are often the answer to this shortcoming, allowing users to see the status and even control the door from their mobile devices. The system is always connected to the Internet, so the user can retrieve the garage door status anytime.

Ford wants to use the vehicle to provide similar functionality for any garage door model.

Ford patent drawing
Photo: USPTO
The company explains that it can rely on vehicle hardware, such as onboard cameras and ultrasonic sensors, to collect information about the garage door. When leaving for work, the car automatically detects the opening garage door and then uses its cameras to record it closing. The vehicle can record footage of the garage door opening and closing, so the infotainment system can play the recorded video when the driver requests its status.

The carmaker explains that its system can collect three garage door states: open, closed, or partially open. When the driver requests, the system can display the image or recording on a smartphone or the infotainment system. Additionally, the system can be further enhanced with additional options, so it can display a text message to indicate the garage door status on the home screen without a user inquiry.

The patent application explains the vehicle would use various onboard systems, including a camera mounted above the dashboard to capture images in front of the car (such as a dashcam), a reverse camera for parking, an ultrasonic sensor mounted on the bumper or the trunk, and even LiDAR sensors. All this equipment can contribute with images and videos stored locally specifically to detect a change in the garage door's status. The ultrasonic sensor can also tell if the garage door closes during the night.

The technology can be further enhanced by allowing onboard technology to communicate with other radio transmitters installed in the garage. For example, the vehicle may receive a wireless signal from a radio transmitter connected to a garage door opening engine, so the system can tell if the door is closed or open even without recording the necessary footage (such as during bad weather or at night).

Ford patent drawing
Photo: USPTO
In some cases, the vehicle can also connect with nearby cameras to request footage using a Wi-Fi connection at home or a data connection.

Ford's system makes perfect sense for non-smart garage doors, but it can become a costly solution unlikely to make its way to production models.

Smart homes – a concept rapidly gaining traction worldwide – allow users to obtain garage door status information right on the mobile device without involving nearby technology or the vehicle. They also provide additional benefits, such as remote control of the garage door – when the vehicle approaches the house, the driver can request the door to open without needing a dedicated remote control. Mobile phone projection systems, such as Android Auto and CarPlay, are also expanding in this direction, getting support for smart garage door openers, therefore letting drivers open and close the doors from the infotainment screen.

In the meantime, Ford's concept is only a patent, so you shouldn't hold your breath for the company to bring it on a production model. The approach would have made more sense ten years ago when smart homes were a new concept, but now I doubt the American carmaker plans to pursue this idea in the long term.
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 Download: Ford's latest patent (PDF)

About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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