3/2/2018 | 1 MINUTE READ

The Steering Wheel Goes Semi-Autonomous

Facebook Share Icon LinkedIn Share Icon Twitter Share Icon Share by EMail icon Print Icon

ZF has developed a new concept steering wheel for Level 3 automation.

Share

Facebook Share Icon LinkedIn Share Icon Twitter Share Icon Share by EMail icon Print Icon

Even though it may seem as though we’ll all be sitting back in swivel chairs watching Netflix on our connected devices when we might otherwise be driving the vehicles we are in, chances are we are going to be doing more of the latter and less of the former for the foreseeable future.

Yes, we will be doing some driving to get from A to B.

So to that end, ZF has developed a new concept steering wheel for Level 3 automation. Level 3 is “conditional,” meaning the driver must be ready to take back control of the vehicle, and this means that the steering wheel must be gripped. To assure that happens, there are 10 capacitive sensors in the rim and an additional one on the inside circumference that determines appropriate hand orientation.

One way the driver will be alerted that the automatic lane-keeping and cruise control are insufficient to conditions and manual car control is in order is through a seven-inch LCD display in the center of the quasi-circular wheel. Another is through the LED lights that are embedded in the circumference of the steering wheel: blue indicates autonomous mode, white is illuminated when the driver is in control, red provides a warning and yellow indicates turn signal activation. According to ZF, the lighting regime is OEM-programmable.

Commands to do things like adjusting the HVAC settings are also done through the steering wheel.

In typical cars, the driver airbag is packaged in the center of the steering wheel. But in the ZF concept, there’s that screen. So the ZF safety engineers have come up with a way to package it on the back side of the wheel rim so that when it deploys it covers the screen and protects the driver.

Juergen Krebs, ZF vice president of engineering for steering wheel systems and driver airbags, says, “As new automated functions become more commonplace, advanced technologies employed in the steering wheel are important and can help improve driver safety and awareness of the current vehicle control mode.”

RELATED CONTENT

  • NISSAN'S Platform Play

    The mid-size 2005 Pathfinder, Nissan's largest design and development program to date, involved three technical centers, and took 36 months and countless trans-Pacific trips to complete. Though it borrows major components from the full-size Titan pickup and Armada SUV, it's not just a downsized clone.

  • Designing the 2019 Ram 1500

    Ram Truck chief exterior designer Joe Dehner talks about how they’ve developed the all-new pickup. “We’ve been building trucks for over 100 years,” he says. “Best I could come up with is that this is our 15th-generation truck.”  

  • 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Blue

    A young(ish) guy that I’ve known for a number of years, a man who spent the better part of his career writing for auto buff books and who is a car racer on the side, mentioned to me that his wife has a used Lexus ES Hybrid.