BMW Files a Patent to Reinvent the Steering Wheel

It’s a time of transition in the auto industry. Automakers like BMW are working to transition to electric vehicles along with many other innovations. More than a few of them are trying to change up steering wheels or eliminate them altogether in the case of some Tesla models.

Tesla started the movement to reinvent the wheel with the Model S Plaid. Other automakers, including Toyota, have also jumped on the bandwagon. The latest to join the party is BMW, with a take on the new yoke-style handle that might fix the most significant problems of such a design. 

A classic BMW logo on a white background.
BMW logo | Getty Images

BMW innovations

BMW got its start during World War I making aircrafts. It didn’t shift to building motors and railway brakes until 1918. In the 1920s, it began producing motorcycles, starting with the BMW R32.

BMW bought Dixi Automobile Weke in 1928 and began producing the Dixi as its first car. While the company struggled in the 1950s, by the 1970s it made a name for itself in the luxury vehicle market. BMW was holding its own against other popular automakers like Mercedes-Benz by then.

These days, BMW is an innovative industry leader that strives to produce consistently better vehicles with new, exciting features. BMW vehicles are known for aerodynamics, luxurious comfort, performance, and excellence in design. 

Offering many quality vehicles, including luxury sedans and SUVs, BMW is now exploring the world of electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids. It is setting the standard for environmentally-friendly vehicles that retain the luxury and performance the automaker is known for.

The steering handle

According to CarBuzz, BMW filed for a patent for its new steering handle in China and Germany. The move shows a clear intention to claim the design even though it’s not a solid commitment that it will ever be produced.

The steering handle is a bizarre little yoke and far from a standard steering wheel. With the ongoing push to produce safe, partially-autonomous double-track motor vehicles, BMW considers the design a vital component in that concept. In other words, a standard steering wheel would take up too much room with the car in self-driving mode in a higher-level autonomous car.

The automaker assumes we’ll want to place our books or devices in the space the steering wheel occupies typically. This is just one idea to remedy that. BMW explained in the patent request that the handle is designed to maximize driver space. It gives them room to read the paper or manage electronic matters like email using a visual display unit.

According to Car and Driver, the most interesting aspect is the way the driver would use the handle. There are similar designs from other automakers. What makes the BMW version stand out is that exterior grips can be moved clockwise, so your hand doesn’t have to change its vertical axis while driving.

For example, if your left-hand moves from the 9 o’clock to the 12 o’clock position, it can remain with the thumb pointing up. It allows the driver to drive the car with one hand. If some parts of the handle are folded in, you can still use it to drive the car. In meeting the goal of minimizing the space a functional steering wheel takes up, they succeeded admirably well.

A leader in innovations

Since the founding of BMW, innovation has been a driving force in its efforts. It has been able to achieve progress and advancement in many different areas.

With BMW’s automated parking system, the vehicle drives into a parking garage. The driver steps out, and the vehicle self-drives into a parking space. Using an app, when the driver is ready to leave, they can call the vehicle which navigates out of the parking space. The driver gets in and then leaves the parking garage for great convenience.

BMW recently unveiled a color-changing car too. It’s in the early stages, utilizing the same technology used by e-readers. The vehicle’s color can be changed from white to black, with many grayscale options in between. You’re not limited to just one color, and BMW explains that there is even the ability to create moving patterns on the car with the new technology.

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