What is the point of having the car doors automatically lock once the vehicle reaches a minimum speed?

My initial though on hearing about this "feature" 15+ years ago was that the manufacturers had so little faith in their door latches that they thought that locking would help prevent the doors from opening in an accident. I realize this is a somewhat farcical line of thinking...

I've always found it annoying to have the doors lock themselves, as I prefer to be allowed to do things for myself instead of having someone else think for me. I find it extra annoying now that I have a vehicle that has a fairly bright light on each door that indicates that the door is locked - a "feature" that I didn't notice during the daylight hours test drive.

What problem is the automatic door locking trying to solve?

  • Welcome to the site. In some vehicles, this feature is programmable to be turned off (it is on by default). Tell us the make/model and we may be able to point you to instructions how to do this.
    – CharlieRB
    Sep 5 '17 at 19:03
  • Thanks, @CharlieRB - I've already disabled it on my car. It doesn't bother my wife so I've left hers alone.
    – FreeMan
    Sep 5 '17 at 19:39
  • I thought there might be regulations on it here in the States, but I didn't find anything through a cursory search. Safety has to be the #1 concern, I don't know what else it might be. Sep 5 '17 at 21:24
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    I've yet to find anyone who has asked for this to be turned on. The only strong feelings are to turn it off, unless people can't be bothered and will live with it. (In my case, not only did I dislike it, it was inconvenient for passengers and it subjected the poor-quality lock mechanism to twice the number of operations actually necessary.) Sep 5 '17 at 23:28
  • Lawyers and such.
    – mannaggia
    Sep 6 '17 at 1:01

Modern automatic door locking is more of a safety feature to keep whats inside in and what is outside out.

Kids might try to open doors. In that case, unlocked doors can be a problem. Worse, car jacking is becoming prevalent. Anyone who tries to open a door on your car when you have come to a stop light, will not be able to get in.

From the standpoint of escaping a wrecked vehicle, technology has made it where they doors will automatically unlock when the airbag goes off.

As grown adults, we can choose for ourselves if we want this feature enabled or not. Most cars have a programming feature to disable automatic locking.

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    Cars have had a "kid switch" that disables the inside door handles for far longer than the automatic locking has been around. Also, I've driven in NYC, and it's entirely possible to drive for blocks before getting to the 10MPH that is the trigger speed for some locks...
    – FreeMan
    Sep 5 '17 at 19:41
  • That is a good point. I had not thought about stop & go city traffic.
    – CharlieRB
    Sep 5 '17 at 20:27
  • I agree with your first paragraph, but the subsequent justification seems post hoc. Do you have any sources for these?
    – bishop
    Sep 5 '17 at 20:57
  • Side note, my car doesn't (didn't) automatically unlock the doors when I shut the engine off and removed the key - maybe it would with airbag deployment, but that's something I'm looking forward to testing. That's the other extremely annoying thing about this "feature". I had to remember to unlock the doors so I could get things out of the back seat. No that this is disabled, I'm a much happier user.
    – FreeMan
    Sep 5 '17 at 21:04
  • In most cases the system I suspect just issues a lock command without "Knowing" the lock/unlock state to begin with. So its really not possible to "restore" the state to where it was.
    – agentp
    Sep 6 '17 at 0:08

I agree with CharlieRB's commentary above. And just to extend his car jacking comment this unlocked door vulnerability comes up a ton in the context of self defense. There's a bunch of carjacking videos on YouTube where a criminal basically walks up to a car and opens the door and invites himself in. This guy John correia who does surveillance camera analysis always recommends locking your doors whenever you're in the vehicle. I've made it a habit too after watching so many brazen car jackings from his analyses, would even be better to let the car automatically take car of it in case one forgets.

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