BMW has a long history of innovative steering wheel design, and the latest patent application suggests that BMW appears to be developing a folding steering wheel for self-driving vehicles that will upend our perception of the steering wheel. As can be seen from the patent image, the steering wheel is compact and provides more knee space for the main driver once the vehicle takes over control.
The revolutionary design is understood to remind the driver of being too fast by changing the shape of the steering wheel in the driver’s hand, rather than using voice alerts or audio notifications.
In fact, back in 2017, researchers at Stanford University tested the shape-changing mechanical steering wheel. Tests have shown that a mechanically shaped steering wheel is faster for a driver’s reaction time when it is allowed to regain control of a self-driving car in an emergency than a steering wheel with a flashing LED light warning.
The Stanford study concluded: “Drivers experience a mechanical steering wheel significantly better than an LED steering wheel.” In other words, the alarm issued by mechanical action is more effective than a mere visual alarm. “
So far, BMW has kept its secret steering wheel on the table, and has not said whether it plans to introduce it in a production car. To be sure, the steering wheel at least demonstrates BMW’s horizontal thinking about the development of self-driving cars.