Future Volvos Won't Have Just One Driver's Seat

Technology / Comments

But not in the way you think.

Everyone knows how disconcerting it is to visit another country where the steering wheel is on the "wrong" side of the car. For some, it's too much of a compromise, which is why a specialist in the UK will even convert a left-hand-drive Ford F-150 Raptor to right-hand-drive - at a considerable cost.

But what if one car could offer both left- and right-and-drive without any modification at all? Wait, what? Well, Volvo's latest patent filing with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) aims to achieve exactly this, showcasing a design where a car's major controls can be moved from one side of the vehicle to the other.

USPTO
USPTO
USPTO
USPTO

Besides eliminating the need to offer separate RHD and LHD versions of the same model, the design was created with a focus on the unique requirements of fully autonomous vehicles. Although Level 5 autonomy isn't ready quite yet, Volvo's patent would allow the driver to assume occasional control of the vehicle even if they aren't seated in a dedicated driver's seat.

Because advanced autonomous technologies won't require the driver to be in control all of the time, it's theoretically possible to either move major controls around or out of the way entirely, as Bentley has proposed with its design for a retractable steering wheel. Volvo's patent describes a steering wheel that can move from one side of the dashboard to the other along a rail. It can even be positioned in the center for a vehicle with a front bench seat.

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USPTO
USPTO
USPTO
USPTO

What about the pedals? Conventional pedals can still be used, but floor panels with full-width sensor pads will align to the position of the steering wheel, thereby allowing pedal control from any seating position. The patent goes on to detail a rail system for both the gear shifter and the seats, allowing these to be movable as well. Volvo is renowned for making safe vehicles such as the XC60 SUV, which holds a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

To that end, the patent includes a section on an airbag system that can detect the driver/occupant seating position and thereby deploy the correct airbags in the event of a crash. The latest patent could be a game-changer for future, fully autonomous vehicles, but there's no knowing how far away we are from a Volvo that is equally adaptable to whichever side of the road different countries drive on.

2018-2021 Volvo XC60 SUV Three Quarter Front Left Dynamic Volvo
2018-2021 Volvo XC60 SUV Right Profile Dynamic Volvo
2018-2021 Volvo XC60 SUV Three Quarter Rear Right Dynamic Volvo
2018-2021 Volvo XC60 SUV Steering Wheel Volvo
Source Credits: USPTO

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