Over the last ten years, the steering wheel has become a site of innovation

·2-min read
Audi has developed a steering wheel that can control up to 18 different functions in the car.

The steering wheel has evolved significantly since the creation of the automobile. Some car manufacturers are working at making it simpler and ultra-efficient. One such example is Audi, which is now developing steering wheels equipped with touch screens and capacitive grip recognition technology that detects the pressure exerted by the driver's hands and acts accordingly.

While we await a fully self-driving car, the steering wheel remains a fundamental element when it comes to maneuvering a car along a road. In recent years, Audi has been investing time in this element, so much so that the most elaborate of all its steering wheels, the one in the Q4 e-tron, can control no less than 18 different functions, from communication to infotainment to driver comfort. It also comes in 16 different versions depending on the customization options chosen.

The design of such a sophisticated steering wheel requires several steps. After determining the functions to be controlled from the steering wheel, it is necessary to adjust where to position them, both from a practical and design point of view. It's of course necessary to establish how each function will be activated: through a physical button/ feature or by touch control. Then, the finishes will depend on the model in question, its style and its unique attributes.

The German manufacturer's latest steering wheel is no exception to these rules. It must also meet very precise specifications -- specifically be as compact as possible, so that any control can be operated with the thumb without interfering with the steering.

New technologies have also appeared in recent years, such as small touch screens or capacitive grip recognition. Small bumps form an outline between the haptic feedback touch screens to facilitate their use without the driver having to look down. As for capacitive grip recognition, it allows the car to know whether the driver is holding the wheel or not, even in the case of driver assistance.

In a semi-automatic driving episode, if the hands are not on the wheel for at least 15 seconds, a series of warnings (visual and audible) will be deployed.

David Bénard

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