Dangers of Automatic Windows

Recently I posted on some potential human factors problems caused by Toyota’s design of their floor mats. For this post, I would like to compliment Toyota on their automatic power windows. The windows can be lowered fully and automatically by one quick press on the button. However, to be raised, the lever on the button must be continuously raised until the window closes.

This is good for two reasons:

  • if it raised automatically, people and pets could be easily hurt by the closing window.
  • if the buttons were press-only (or a toggle), a knee, hand, paw, or other object can cause the window to close on something unintentionally.

I did not appreciate these functions until operating a Honda window recently that closed with one upward pull of the button, when I did not intend to close it.

Consumer Reports recently published an article on this design problem. There are many injuries each year from automatically closing windows and some deaths, usually children. There is new legislation to require that windows auto-reverse when they encounter an object. Examples of the two types of switches are shown below.