Patent Hints at Shape-Shifting Steering Wheel from BMW

by Member - BimmerFest Staff on March 30, 2020, 3:28 pm

Bimmerfest has uncovered a patent application for a steering wheel whose shape can change submitted to the World Intellectual Property Office.

Thanks to a series of pivots and sliding parts, the steering wheel can go from circular to oval.
In fact, one of the shapes looks particularly sporty and is reminiscent of steering wheels used in BMWís race cars.

This could be another function of, say, an M mode. The circular steering wheel is important for low-speed driving since it makes hand-over-hand maneuvers easier. But at high-speeds, you donít need to move your hands from the 9-and-3 position.

That could make this steering wheel a fun party trick for an upcoming sports car. It may have nothing to do with track driving, though. It could, instead, be for automated driving.

Itís no secret that the real race automakers are involved in these days is for automated driving supremacy and Stanford research suggests that a steering wheel that changes shape could make level three automation easier.

Level three automation requires humans to take over driving responsibility at certain times. Some automakers, like Volvo, have suggested that this step should just be skipped entirely since requiring humans to take over driving duties at the drop of a hat is dangerous.

Lights and audio warnings help but, as you can see in the video above, donít always work in time. The trick is to make the hand-off of responsibility as clear as possible and to alert drivers to changing responsibilities as quickly and effectively as possible. A shape-shifting steering wheel garnered much quicker reactions than any lights and audio cues alone in the Stanford teamís testing.

Weíll be excited to find out exactly what BMW has planned for this system if and when they bring it to market.

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