We’re seeing more and more advanced automotive concepts, and one that caught our eye this week came from TRW Automotive Holdings. They have a new steering wheel concept that they showed recently on the Rinspeed XchangE showcar at the Geneva Auto Show.
What more can be done with a steering wheel, we wondered; it turns out, quite a lot.
The wheel’s multi-functional features include hands on/off detection to support the driver during semi-automated and automated driving situations. The driver can choose to drive the vehicle, pass control of the vehicle to the front passenger, or have the vehicle drive itself in automated mode.
A Drive Mode Manager (DMM) display, located at the top of the steering wheel, is set to “A” when the car is in automated mode. When the driver is ready to resume control and touches the wheel, the display changes to “M” (manual). “PTD” (Push to Drive) hands control back to the driver. Hands back off the wheel and the car returns to its automated mode.
TRW says certain controls can be eliminated or packaged into the steering wheel, which frees up space
in the car’s interior. In the XchangE vehicle they were able to remove the center console and integrate the gear shift into the steering wheel, plus the horn, and turn signals.
“Our steering wheel concept redefines the conventional role of the steering wheel as cars evolve and as a result can help to reduce some of the driving tasks and increase comfort,” said Guido Hirzmann, TRW group leader, new technology, Mechatronic.
It might take some getting used to, and there’s still something to be gained in stopping for coffee, at least, but we’re likely to see more of this kind of technology in the not too far distant future.