Jaguar Land Rover has had one of those ideas it has occasionally, and this one seems a bit more realistic and doable than all the ones about 3D transparent HUDs and the like. It's simple: sensors and motors that stop car doors being opened too far if the car's systems suggest you or your child is about to boot the door open and prang the thing you've parked next to.
It might also stop the horror that is opening your door and poleaxing a passing cyclist, which could make riders a little more confident when smashing along streets full of parked cars. If it becomes a real thing that hits all the cars of the future. The actual patent makes it sound like the company's going to be sticking a couple of parking distance sensors on each door, which could provide an alert to the driver -- or perhaps power an external alarm that might tell a passerby that a doors about to open.
And yes, it might even do it all automatically, seeing as we've decided that cars need to start thinking for themselves, with the documentation adding: "The notification signal can be output to a drive mechanism for inhibiting or restricting opening of the vehicle door. The drive mechanism can be operative to apply a resistive force to the vehicle door. The drive mechanism could be configured to define a hard stop to limit the extent to which the vehicle door can be opened."
The drive mechanism might stop you losing your deposit on a hire car. The drive mechanism might save your child from getting shouted at by a businessman in a Mercedes. The drive mechanism might be available for £999 on certain models. [Google Patents via Mirror]