You would think that the humble automotive sliding door couldn’t really be improved upon or changed dramatically, because it would have already been done by now, right? Well, Rivian seems to have a different idea and it just filed a patent with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for a new sliding door design that allows for a larger opening and therefore easier access.
According to a post on the Rivian Owners Forum, the EV manufacturer calls this the dual-guide-rail sliding door and it explains that in the sketches it submitted, it shows
An illustrative automotive vehicle includes a body of the vehicle; a sliding door movably connected to the body of the vehicle; a front rail connected to a body of the vehicle; a rear rail connected to a body of the vehicle behind rearward of the front rail; a door rail connected to the sliding door; a front arm assembly connected to the sliding door and movably connected to the front rail; and a rear arm assembly movably connected to the rear rail and movably connected to the door rail. The sliding door is movably connected to the body of the vehicle, and a lateral distance travelled by the sliding door along the body of the vehicle from an open position to a closed position is greater than a length of the rear rail.
Gallery: Rivian Sliding Door Patent
Basically, this redesigned sliding mechanism allows the door to slide further back than where the vehicle itself ends; the opening is no longer restricted by the vehicle’s length. You can therefore have a smaller vehicle and still have its sliding door open sufficiently for great access.
But now the question is: what is Rivian going to use this in? Could it be the upcoming delivery van for Amazon? Probably not, because that vehicle is long enough that it wouldn’t need this system - you can open its sliding doors all the way and they never reach the end of the vehicle. This does hint at the fact that Rivian might be designing a smaller passenger vehicle where this system would be needed.
It’s interesting that the manufacturer chose a Honda Odyssey for its design sketches and perhaps this hints at plans for a similar vehicle from Rivian, a minivan. Let's not forget the company filed trademark applications for a whole slew of names, so its intention to offer more models in the future seems pretty clear.