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Toyota is one of the most proven innovators for safety technology in the automotive industry. Constantly pushing the envelope, the automaker doesn’t take any breaks. While it’s been busy with the new GR Supra, announcing electric pickup trucks, and more, it’s also working on something else. Toyota is now working on an inflatable steering wheel, but it might not be for the reason you’re thinking. It’s coming to improve the way lane-keep assist systems work.

Why is Toyota making an inflatable steering wheel?

Dashboard and front seats in 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross, could it get a Toyota inflatable steering wheel for safety reasons?
2022 Toyota Corolla Cross | Toyota

According to Car Buzz, documents filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office point to an inflatable steering wheel. However, it isn’t going to be so people can float away if they drive into the water. However, it is for safety reasons and could even save lives. Toyota uses an inflatable steering wheel to solve an issue with its current lane keep assist systems.

With a traditional lane keep assist system, the vehicle will make a chime sound, the steering wheel will vibrate, and the car will automatically pull back into the lane. Toyota says these are distracting, dangerous methods of telling drivers they’ve drifted into the wrong lane. In addition, the warning chime almost always causes the driver to look away from the road to see what’s causing the sound. All of the above are distractions, which can prove more dangerous than a slight drift into another lane.

Toyota’s inflatable steering wheel could improve lane-keep assist systems

A blue 2022 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XSE is parked, would lane-keep assist benefit from an inflatable steering wheel?
A blue 2022 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XSE is parked | Toyota

The steering wheel will deflate instead of the above methods that the Japanese automaker dislikes for its vehicles. Toyota steering wheels will increase or decrease in diameter around the rim when drivers drift into the wrong lane. It’ll be paired with a system that automatically corrects steering, just like existing lane-keep assists. According to Toyota, increasing the rim diameter will increase friction, improve the driver’s grip on the steering wheel, and, therefore, control over the car.

Next, an inflated steering wheel indicates normal driving in the correct lane, while a decrease in diameter indicates drifting or changing lanes unintentionally. Only certain parts of the steering wheel can inflate and deflate, not the entire thing. This helps because a left-side grip indicates the driver is moving too far left and vice-versa. While this might seem like a weird innovation, it’ll be worth it if it improves safety even minimally.

The steering wheel should not be used as a flotation device

You aren’t alone if that was your first thought when reading about the inflatable steering wheel. We have to say the steering wheel cannot be used as a flotation device. If you somehow end up driving into a body of water, the inflatable steering wheel will not save your life. It is intended only for improving the lane-keep assist safety system in Toyota vehicles.

In conclusion, do you think an inflatable steering wheel is a good idea? Innovational ideas like this are what continues to propel the automotive industry forward. Even if only a few people were safer thanks to this new Toyota product, the time and effort were worth it. Toyota’s new patent for an inflatable steering wheel proves that the automaker has never finished its work. That’s why brands like Toyota are so well-known, respected, and loved by many buyers. It is constantly looking for ways to improve its products and, most importantly, make owners safer.


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