ZF reinvents the (steering) wheel so cars can have even more screens

Posted on June 10, 2024Comments Off on ZF reinvents the (steering) wheel so cars can have even more screens

German automotive supplier ZF has unveiled its take on the steering wheel of the future, which sees a key safety feature repositioned to allow for more screen real estate.

ZF Lifetec – the firm’s passive safety division – unveiled its unique concept steering wheel last week, which crucially moves the airbag away from the hub of the wheel to behind the rim.

While most automotive changes are made under the guise of being safety advancements, ZF places a greater emphasis on design freedom for manufacturers with its new steering wheel.

According to the firm, the “new installation position of the airbag allows the horizontal spoke [..] to have a seamless, smartphone-like design”.

As you can see, this means the inclusion of a screen, which “has become the command centre for entertainment and assistance functions in modern cars”.

Just what this particular screen could be used for would be up to carmakers, though ZF Lifetec’s head of development, Harald Lutz, promises the supplier is “enabling design freedom for steering wheels without compromising safety”.

Though it integrates a system which can detect whether drivers are holding onto the steering wheel, ZF says the capacitive sensor is located under the leather upholstery, allowing it to better understand if the wheel is only being touched or if it’s being properly gripped.

At this stage, there’s no timeline on when we can expect to see it in production or any carmakers which have publicly put their hand up to use it in their future models.

Manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz have incorporated screens in steering wheels, but not to this extent.

Over the years, steering wheels have also gained airbags, buttons and touch-capacitive switches, but ZF Lifetec’s wheel is an even more ambitious evolution of the humble steering wheel.