TRW Automotive's steering-wheel concept being shown at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show supports semi and fully automated driving via several multifunctional features including hands on/off detection. The steering wheel is featured in Rinspeed's steer-by-wire XchangE electric vehicle concept. The lightweight design incorporates the following functions, which can be activated by touching transparent switches:
• A "Drive Mode Manager" (DMM) display, located at the top of the steering wheel, illuminating "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. If he then touches "Push to Drive" (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.
• Gear shift—the driver can move from park, neutral, drive, and reverse using the relevant switches on the steering wheel.
• Turn indicators—the indicator switches are illuminated white (ambient lighting), and when activated the corresponding left and right arrows flash.
• Electronic Horn System (EHS)—the horn can be activated by touching a conductive area on the steering-wheel airbag cover.
"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," said TRW's Guido Hirzmann, Group Leader, New Technology, Mechatronic. "For example, with the XchangE vehicle we have been able to remove the center console and integrate the gear shift into the steering wheel."