Steering the future

Steering the future

As fully automated driving systems evolve from fantasy to reality, TRW describes how its new steering wheel concept will support future applications.

At the Geneva Motor Show unveiling of the Rinspeed XchangE show car, a new steering wheel concept – developed by TRW – took centre stage. Offering a number of multi-functional capabilities, the steering wheel’s most significant feature allows hands on/off detection to help support the driver during semi-automated and automated driving situations. 

Guido Hirzmann, Group Leader, New Technology, Mechatronic, believes that the development creates a whole host of driver comfort and safety opportunities in the future. He says: “Rinspeed’s steer-by-wire XchangE vehicle, featuring TRW’s steering wheel system, opens up a world of possibilities to the driver. With the integrated hands on/off sensor and flexible positioning of the wheel, the driver can choose whether to drive the vehicle himself, pass control of the vehicle to the front passenger, or have the vehicle drive itself in automated mode.

“Furthermore, with the increasing number of electronically controlled functions in the vehicle, certain controls can be eliminated or packaged into the steering wheel, offering more space and flexibility for the car interior. For example, with the XchangE vehicle, we have been able to remove the centre console and integrate the gear shift into the steering wheel.

“Our steering wheel concept redefines the conventional role of the steering wheel as cars evolve and, as a result, can help to reduce some of the driving tasks and increase comfort. The technology is part of TRW’s efforts to support the path to automated driving and promote the car of the future.”


The steering wheel offers a modern, lightweight design, incorporating the following functions which can be activated by touching transparent switches:

This is located at the top of the steering wheel and illuminates ‘A’ when the vehicle is in automated mode. If the driver touches the steering wheel, ‘M’ (manual) becomes illuminated, indicating that the driver is ready to take back control of the vehicle. If he then touches ‘Push to Drive’ or ‘PTD’, control is given back to the driver. Similarly, if the driver later takes his hands off the wheel, the DMM display automatically changes from ‘M’ to ‘A’ and the vehicle continues to drive in an automated mode.

The driver can move from park, neutral, drive and reverse using the relevant switches on the steering wheel.

The indicator switches are illuminated white (ambient lighting) and when activated, the corresponding left and right arrows flash.

The horn can be activated by touching a conductive area on the steering wheel airbag cover.

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