The latest telescoping steering wheels extend and retract to make it more comfortable for people of all sizes to drive, but that doesn't help much if you have trouble getting behind the wheel in the first place. To make it easier to enter and exit vehicles, TRW Automotive is developing a collapsible steering wheel that retracts entirely into the dashboard.
Renderings of the new dashboard technology show a steering wheel with two handles attached to the steering column. When not in use, the handles collapse around the column, which retracts into the dashboard. By opening up more space in the cockpit, the retractable steering wheel should make it easier for people to get in and out of automobiles. The steering wheel automatically deploys into driving position when the driver starts the car, and like adjustable seats with memory options, the steering wheel position preference can be saved.
Aging populations and smaller cars are the impetus behind this new technology, according to the automotive equipment supplier. But pregnant women and a population with ever-expanding waistlines will also benefit from this design concept.
"The key benefit is to make it much easier for elderly drivers or other drivers with reduced mobility to get in and out of the vehicle," says TRW development manager Manuel Poyant. "Due to the significant growth of small city cars, this technology could open up the possibility for even smaller cabin designs."
TRW says automotive manufactures have shown interest in the folding steering wheel, and could implement it in vehicles within five years.
(Via Telematics News)