Other than a few controversial wheel designs and far more buttons, the steering wheel hasn’t changed all that much in the last several decades. Your car probably has an adjustable steering wheel that allows different height and telescoping settings. If it’s a fancy car, you may even have power adjustments and other options like a heated steering wheel or leather grips. Those are nice features, but General Motors’ latest idea goes several steps further.
GM Authority recently located a patent application that details an adaptive steering wheel rim. In addition to standard adjustments, GM’s adaptive wheel houses an inflatable bladder with a pump. Depending on their comfort level, the driver can inflate or deflate the bladder, and the wheel responds to drive mode settings, such as shifting to a thicker wheel for track driving or a softer setting for longer highway drives.
GM’s filing notes that the wheel can shift its size, shape, hardness, and texture. It also adapts to driver hand size, location, and grip strength. Using an array of sensors, the system can automatically change wheel settings for a particular driver or profile, and GM says the driver can manually adjust the wheel when needed,
Drivers commonly swap steering wheels for specific driving scenarios, so an adaptive steering wheel would be a significant selling point for many people. Additionally, changing the steering wheel on any car made in the last 30 years is a massive challenge and may even be impossible for some vehicles. Since this is a patent filing, there’s no telling when or if we’ll see GM’s novel steering wheel, but it’s easy to imagine plenty of situations where it’d be nice to have.
[Image: United States Patent and Trademark Office]