Ford Files Patent for Retractable Steering Wheel
Ford Motor Co. has filed a patent application, which reveals the plans by the carmaker to make the steering wheel and the pedals removable. This will be done to allow the drivers to either steer manually or clear the dashboard during autonomous mode.
The patent application describes the dashboard assembly as having a receiving niche, which can receive the removable ‘filler module’ for when the steering wheel isn’t in use or a removable steering wheel.
Since autonomous vehicles will not require the use of steering wheel for piloting the vehicle, it’s not needed, but losing the steering wheel altogether will present some significant design challenges. The reason for that stems from the fact that most vehicles that have driver side airbag, put it on the steering wheel; also eliminating the steering wheel will make it impossible for a human driver to take control of the vehicle in case of an emergency.
As per the patent application that was filed by the automaker on February 5, 2016, and was published last week, a clear majority of vehicle owners will prefer having a steering wheel, even if it is redundant, because of familiarity despite the vehicle being in an autonomous mode.
Ford has planned to mount the removable wheel plans to install the removable wheel to the cockpit on a splined shaft. The automaker is also considering a steer-by-wire system for the steering wheel. This will be composed of sensors, a feedback motor and a bearing-mounted stub shaft.
The design will compensate the safety challenge by the addition of a second airbag that will deploy when a collision occurs, and the steering wheel isn’t inserted in the dashboard.
The removable pedals might be fixed to the floor of the vehicle using spring loaded snap engagement features and threaded fasteners. Sensors will also be put to work for determining whether or not pedal is fixed in the place.
However, the system wouldn’t be made available till fully autonomous vehicles become widely available.