Ford patent gives us a look at a steering wheel-less future

Automotive giant Ford has received a patent for a removable steering wheel. Now in yesteryear, you could be forgiven for thinking this was to replace a damaged wheel, but this is actually preparation for the day when your car no longer needs a wheel at all. 

There are five different stages of automation when it comes to cars, ranging from zero, where there is no input in the driving from the car, to five where there is no input from the driver, and the car is in complete control of driving.

If the car then has no steering wheel then it’s clearly leaning far towards the higher end of the spectrum. It’s interesting to see a company with the money, influence, and name of Ford putting serious work into driverless tech.

As there are already cars like the Tesla range and the new Audi A8 that the user drives but have autonomous capabilities, there is the possibility that the transition through each of the stages will be smoother, so it’s interesting to see Ford looking at the idea of a car that will straddle both driver and driverless technology.

Which way do the seats face?

One of the technical problems that is addressed in the patent is the placement of the airbag. At the moment, the security feature is placed in the steering wheel, but in the patent, there are two airbags. One in the wheel as standard, and one under the wheel, that will be electronically deactivated while the wheel is in place. 

What’s interesting is that in the images for the patent, all of the car seats are still facing forwards, which if the wheel no longer exists, is no longer necessary. Completely autonomous vehicles will completely revolutionize the interior design for cars.

Obviously the purpose of this patent isn’t to do with the interior design, but looking at some of the concept cars that other manufacturers are developing, we could be on the verge of a very different looking car. 

As this is just a patent, there is is of course the possibility that this technology will never actually end up in our cars, but considering the rate at which the world is moving towards driverless cars, we’d be surprised if it never saw the light of day. 

  • Want to know more about the future of technology? Check out Jon Porter's regular column The Transporter.

Via Engadget

Andrew London

Andrew London is a writer at Velocity Partners. Prior to Velocity Partners, he was a staff writer at Future plc.