Advertisement

BMW is developing ‘shape-shifting’ steering wheels

Steering wheels that change shape are most effective in autonomous driving and emergency situations. BMW has plans to develop the technology.

BMW is working on new technology that will see steering wheels change shape before our very eyes.

Patents filed by the German brand show a wheel that can change from a traditional circular shape to an oval shape using separate rim parts that can pivot in relation to each other. According to fan site BMWX2forum.com this could be used to provide more space for the driver when a car is in autonomous mode, although Auto Express understands that added safety is the primary reason BMW is developing the technology.

BMW has history when it comes to innovative steering wheels. It’s Vision iNext concept, unveiled at the 2018 Los Angeles Motor Show, featured a squared-off steering wheel designed to allow drivers to easily switch between autonomous and active driving modes. BMW claimed that its unusual shape would make it easier for the driver to recognise the car’s steering angle.

Advertisement - Article continues below

That steering wheel is expected to make it onto next year’s iNext production car - which could wear an iX5 badge. BMW has already said that the iNEXT’s steering wheel will be fitted with optical fibres to let the driver know when autonomous driving modes are available for use, and warn of situations where the driver is required to retake control of the vehicle.

However, the new patents reveal that BMW plans to take steering wheel technology a step further, and its invention has the backing of car safety researchers.

In 2017 researchers at Stanford University conducted tests using a test rig featuring a robotic steering wheel that could change shape. Their tests showed that drivers asked to take control of an autonomously-driven vehicle in an emergency situation reacted quicker to a steering wheel that mechanically changes its shape than a steering wheel that uses flashing LED lights to alert the driver.

The conclusion of the Stanford study was: “Drivers who experienced the robotic steering wheel performed significantly better than those who experienced the LED steering wheel. The results of this study suggest that alerts utilising mechanical movements are more effective than purely visual warnings.”

The shape-shifting steering wheel is unlikely to make it onto 2021’s iNext model, but could only be a few years away from production.

Do you like the idea of a car steering wheel that alters its shape? Let us know in the comments...

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit New 2021 BMW iNEXT targets 360-mile range
BMW

New 2021 BMW iNEXT targets 360-mile range

New, all-electric BMW iNEXT SUV spied in Sweden as marque targets WLTP range of 360 miles
28 Apr 2020
Visit BMW X8 M trademark hints at sporty super-luxury SUV above the X7
BMW X7 Concept - front grille
BMW

BMW X8 M trademark hints at sporty super-luxury SUV above the X7

The German brand is discussing a new flagship SUV, with the luxurious BMW X8 set to slot in above the recently launched X7
14 Apr 2020
Visit New 2021 BMW i4: prices, specs and release date
BMW

New 2021 BMW i4: prices, specs and release date

The BMW Concept i4 strongly hints at the brand’s production-ready Tesla Model 3 rival
9 Apr 2020
Visit Mild-hybrid BMW 3 Series, X3 and X4 set for 2020 launch
BMW 3 Series mild-hybrid - side
BMW

Mild-hybrid BMW 3 Series, X3 and X4 set for 2020 launch

BMW has confirmed its 48-volt mild-hybrid technology will be available on its mid-sized models from summer
31 Mar 2020

Most Popular

Visit New 2021 Mercedes SL to be developed by AMG with 2+2 layout
Mercedes SL

New 2021 Mercedes SL to be developed by AMG with 2+2 layout

The new Mercedes SL roadster will return with a fabric roof and will share tech with the AMG GT sports car. Our exclusive images preview how it could …
29 May 2020
Visit Best and worst cars for MoT pass rates revealed
MOT testing station
News

Best and worst cars for MoT pass rates revealed

New analysis of official Government data shows which car makes and models have the best and worst MoT pass rates
29 May 2020
Visit Best sleeper cars: used Q cars that are faster than they look
Best cars & vans

Best sleeper cars: used Q cars that are faster than they look

Want to get somewhere fast without drawing attention to yourself? Then you need a sleeper car: an unassuming motor that packs serious punch under the …
28 May 2020