Live out your Star Wars fantasies from behind the 'wheel' of a future BMW.
There has been no shortage of strange steering wheel designs, and that's just in the last year alone. Before that, there have been many strange steering wheels since the car was invented, but the recent prospect of autonomous driving has prompted a number of manufacturers to reinvent something that already has a perfect design. We've seen Tesla bring the yoke to market, but General Motors has something even stranger while Hyundai simply added a screen to its latest invention. BMW's latest take on the steering wheel is just as controversial, once again begging the question of why something that is literally ideal in its current form needs any fresh takes on its design.
One benefit that is immediately apparent from the below patent drawings uncovered by CarBuzz is that of space. In a world where autonomous driving is part of your daily life, the cabin becomes something of a lounge, and the more spacious this is, the better.
This unusual new design, which is described as a 'steering handle', features a pair of "angled gripping elements," or smaller handles to you and me. They are positioned on a yoke of sorts, and the principle of the conventional wheel remains the same: lift your left hand to turn right and do the opposite to turn left. The smaller grips rotate to remain vertically positioned at all times, with the main horizontal spoke rotating about a center axis, meaning that this is similar in principle to the action of a normal steering wheel. But if the way you operate it hasn't changed, is there really any benefit to this design in daily driving?
Simply put, there is none. In fact, the patent filings made with the United States Patent and Trademark Office simply mention that "further installation space can be gained by way of a steering handle" instead of a steering wheel. Naturally, this type of steering device would take some getting used to, but it would surely be weighted in a way that discourages over-rotation.
It's just one recent way that BMW has attempted to solve the issue of interior space, having already filed an application to protect the design of a folding steering wheel. If the BMW i Vision Circular Concept ever makes it to production, it'll surely have a weird wheel, but in the meantime, we're happy with the one we get in everyday products like the 3 Series.
Curiously, this publication of the patent in the US isn't the first time it's appeared. It has previously been filed in both China and Germany, as well as the global trademark office, suggesting a strong intent to protect the design. Similar concepts have also been used previously, with the Ford Wrist Twist from 1965 being most similar. That never reached production.