On this central control element, the familiar steering wheel buttons can be imitated in virtually any function, shape and color. "The vehicle manufacturer will decide about the exact function. However, ZF offers significant design flexibility," says the ZF developer. As a result, a single steering wheel system could soon be sufficient for OEMs to give different platform vehicles the brand and unique characteristics that differentiate OEM models.
New display and illumination options can also be found on the rim surface. All in all, they can help promote safety and clear communication between the vehicle and the human driver: for example, by sending supplementary warning signals when the electronic assistants detect danger. Or by signaling with red illumination during automated driving that the human driver has to regain control of the vehicle. Whether the driver actually grabs the steering wheel is detected by the steering wheel rim with the Hands On/Off Detection (HOD). In passenger cars, this is already state-of-the-art; in trucks, it will be coming soon.
The steering wheel illumination will be almost as important for the interior design as it is for safety. These features are particularly popular in Asian markets. "Digitalized vehicles are a decisive image and prestige factor," says Schledorn.