According to Melissa T. Miller, from The Nerdist, the first time automatic sliding doors were used (without buttons or actuators) was in the sci-fi show, Star Trek…

Before the TV broadcast aired, there were only automatic swing doors or mat-activated sliding doors… BUT because of Star Trek, the automatic sliding door was born… Or was it?


Engineers invented the first automatic sliding doors in 1954 and they became commercially available in 1960. But they used a mat on the floor to trigger the doors, which is definitely not the case in Star Trek. They didn’t really catch on until the addition of motion sensor technology in the 1970s, after Star Trek‘s run. In the ’80s and ’90s, infrared technology advanced. Most automatic doors now use that to determine when to open and close.

In 1954, Dee Horton and Lew Hewitt invented the first automatic doors operated by mat actuators. These used a hidden electronic system inside the door mat and when someone would stand on it the doors would automatically open.

As Miller states in her article, infrared sensors were not invented until 1980, which was approximately 20 years after Star Trek had first aired.

Star Trek showcased their automatic sliding doors to millions of fans across the world. This futuristic invention would open just by approaching the doors (occasionally the doors were voice-activated or a button was used).

Miller’s article clarifies that the doors on the set were manually operated and had various opening methods within the show itself. However, the concept was technologically brilliant. And through our own research, it seems that Star Trek was indeed likely to be the first TV/film to depict automatic sliding doors with motion sensors instead of button and mat actuators. 


In 2023 automatic sliding doors can be seen (mostly) everywhere and are still popular within the sci-fi genre as being futuristic, state-of-the-art and, of course, stylish. 

However, a lot of businesses have a lot to learn from Star Trek and should certainly consider sliding doors for their establishments. Naturally, they should be installed and serviced with the utmost safety and ensure the public will be at no risk. We are admittedly not completely without risk and so it’s imperative engineers are required to adhere to the required standard (the BS EN16005).

You can read more about that here