Steering wheels capable of changing shapes are useful in autonomous vehicles and in emergency situations. BMW has an idea how to solve this problem.
BMW has filed a patent for a special steering wheel that can quickly change its shape – from traditional round to oval. In this case, the individual parts of the rim rotate relative to each other. Thanks to a more compact configuration, the driver’s seat will become more spacious while the car is moving offline.
The BMW Vision iNext concept, presented at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2018, was equipped with a square steering wheel, making it easy to switch between autonomous and active driving modes. The company said that the unusual shape of the steering wheel allows you to quickly and easily determine the angle of rotation of the car.
It is expected that the new steering wheel will appear in the serial version of iNext, which can get the iX5 index. The steering wheel is also equipped with optical fibers, with the help of which the driver will find out whether the autonomous mode is activated and whether it is required to participate in driving.
According to the new patent, BMW intends to use a different technology. In 2017, researchers from Stanford University tested a robotic steering wheel that could change shape. Tests showed that drivers who were asked to take control of an autonomous vehicle in an emergency responded faster if the steering wheel changed shape quickly. The reaction to light signals was not so swift.
The shape-changing steering wheel is unlikely to appear on the iNext 2021, but it may appear in a couple of years.