Yes, this is really happening.
Not every concept car makes it to production, though it's not uncommon to still see various components do so. Remember, concept cars serve as both design and technology displays of what, theoretically, is possible. BMW regularly brings concepts to auto shows and they typically make production. The BMW Concept 4, for example, directly previews the next-generation BMW 4 Series. But sometimes an extremely wild concept arrives, such as 2016's BMW Vision Next 100 Concept.
This radical vehicle served as both a tech and styling preview of what the German automaker thinks the future will look like. And inspiration from one of its many high-tech components has just taken a big step towards production. BMW X2 Forum has uncovered a patent application for an insanely cool shape-shifting steering wheel.
The included patent images show this advanced new steering wheel's capability to change shape in order to take up less space in the cabin when the vehicle is in autonomous mode, going from a circular to an oval-like shape.
Another interesting function is that it can change shape while still in use by the driver in order to alert them to any number of threats, such as an incoming car or slowed traffic ahead. This shape-changing can reportedly be done faster than any voice or sound notification, thus improving safety and reducing the risk of a crash.
In the case of the Vision Next 100 Concept, its steering wheel was able to fold completely into the dashboard. It doesn't appear this new steering wheel can do that too, but bear in mind this is only the first step towards more advanced steering wheels for the self-driving car era. It's still way too soon to know which new BMW vehicle this steering wheel could first appear in, but we wouldn't be surprised it'll be for one of the automaker's upcoming electric vehicles, such as the just-announced all-electric variant of the next-generation BMW 7 Series.
BMW has not even officially confirmed the existence of this new type of steering wheel so we'll just have to wait patiently for its arrival.