BMW is developing a steering wheel that can mechanically change its shape. This control element, capable of “turning” from round to oval during movement, is needed to warn the driver about the transition from an autonomous control mode to manual.
BMW was prompted by a 2017 study from Stanford University to develop a mechanically convertible steering wheel. Experts tested 2 warning systems for the transition from autonomous to manual mode of movement – the first group of drivers tested the robotic steering wheel with variable geometry, the second group tested the traditional LED display system.
It turned out that the mechanical transformation of the control is much more effective than visual warnings. Since autonomous driving systems will require driver intervention in an emergency, the response time to the alert is very important.
The BMW patent is the second step in introducing transformable controls. In 2019, a Bavarian firm reported details of a polygonal steering wheel that does not block the dashboard and simplifies the process of getting in and out of the car. Now the developments are documented.
It is not worth expecting that an innovative steering wheel will be presented together with the serial version of the BMW iNEXT in 2021: Most likely, the technology will become mandatory for BMW cars in a couple of years.
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