Future of control? ZF Lifetec unveils new steering wheel with safety and tech

The new steering wheel design by ZF Lifetec opens doors for a wider range of materials, shapes and functionalities. On-demand buttons for specific fea

ZF Lifetec has taken novel approach with steering wheels where the airbag deploys from the top of the steering wheel. This frees up the horizontal spoke and hub for a more streamlined design, akin to a modern smartphone.

For decades, the steering wheel has been a constant companion to drivers. It’s more than just a control interface; it’s a safety tether with the life-saving airbag at its core. However, as car interiors transform with a focus on seamless design and advanced technology, the steering wheel itself is undergoing an evolution. ZF, a leading automotive supplier, is proposing a revolutionary design under ZF Lifetec that aims to strike a balance between safety and aesthetics for the future.

The traditional driver’s airbag deploys frontally from the centre of the steering wheel. This design has served its purpose well, but it limits the overall design possibilities. ZF Lifetec proposes a novel approach where the airbag deploys from the top of the steering wheel.

This frees up the horizontal spoke and hub for a more streamlined design, akin to a modern smartphone. It also allows for a continuous surface to integrate touch-sensitive controls for entertainment and driver-assistance functions. Imagine adjusting the volume or activating cruise control with a simple touch on the steering wheel itself.

What are the advantages?

The key advantage of this design, as explained by Harald Lutz, Head of Development at ZF Lifetec, is “unlocking design freedom for steering wheels without compromising safety.” This aligns perfectly with the current trend of seamless design, where automakers are striving for a clean and uncluttered interior with minimal visible gaps and joints. Imagine a dashboard that flows seamlessly into the steering wheel, creating a sense of modern luxury.

Also Read : Tesla backtracks on yoke, brings back good old round steering wheel

However, the benefits extend beyond aesthetics. The design opens doors for a wider range of materials, shapes and functionalities. On-demand buttons for specific features, touch displays embedded directly in the wheel or even a central display within the steering wheel itself become possibilities. This level of customisation allows drivers to personalise their driving experience.

User-friendliness remains paramount, especially considering the steering wheel’s critical role in safe driving. ZF Lifetec acknowledges this by proposing hybrid solutions that combine familiar rotary dials with touch-sensitive surfaces that provide haptic feedback. These features ensure a secure anchor point for driver interaction and integrate seamlessly with existing and future hands-on detection technology. Sensors embedded under the steering wheel surface can differentiate between a light touch and a firm grip, ensuring driver awareness and control.

First Published Date: 09 Jun 2024, 17:00 PM IST

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