To date, BMW has been one of the few holdouts against the pervasive flat-bottomed steering wheel trend initiated by the likes of Volkswagen and Audi. But they all fall down eventually, and Munich has revealed that its upcoming all-electric SUV, the iNEXT, will feature what it calls a race-inspired “polygonal” steering wheel.
The term refers to the shape of the two-spoke item, which is not only flat at the bottom, but at the top as well. As with other carmakers, BMW claims that the new wheel aids entry and egress and enables the driver to bend their legs – for example, when using the adaptive cruise control – to improve long-distance comfort.
But the shape has other benefits as well, particularly when it comes to autonomous driving. According to the company, the driver will be able to more easily recognise the angle of the wheel when switching back to manual driving, making for a safer transition.
The side sections will also be able to illuminate in different colours through the use of embedded optical fibres, signalling the availability of automated driving functions and to warn the driver when they are required to retake control of the vehicle.
The design of the wheel also goes hand-in-hand with the curved display that will be used for both the instruments and the infotainment system. The shape is said to maximise the driver’s view of the screen, and the positioning of the display and the geometry of the steering wheel have apparently been optimised for the legibility of the information shown.
Details have been pretty thin on the ground, but the iNEXT is expected to feature up to Level 3 autonomous driving, all-wheel drive and a range of over 600 km when it enters production in 2021.
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