Recognizing that an increasingly sizable segment of American drivers are aging, and some not so gracefully, component supplier TRW Automotive has revealed its working on a new and more user-friendly concept for automotive dashboards. Key to the innovative TRW design is a dual-element steering wheel that folds inward and towards the center to ease access/egress and then automatically shifts into operating position.
Manuel Poyant, development manager, Steering Wheel Systems and Driver Airbags, said the rise of a more active older population and the growth of mega cities that are more conducive to smaller conventional vehicles as well as EVs has prompted both manufacturers and suppliers to find innovative solutions that improve driver accessibility as well as styling on these cars. "The foldable steering wheel concept is a prime example of technology that allows easier access for elderly people and those faced with mobility challenges."
Created using findings from a TRW internal study, the new steering wheel features two retractable handles that close fully to create a smaller shape which then folds away into the dashboard. Upon startup, the TRD wheel extends into its proper position, which can be pre-set and saved by any driver. Although the primary benefit of the new TRD design is to simplify entry/exit for elderly drivers or others with mobility issues, Poyant also points out an equally significant upside in the realm of additional styling freedom. "Due to the significant growth of small city cars, this technology could open up the possibility for even smaller cabin designs." He indicates that customers have responded favorably to the concept and sees a possible production introduction within the next 5 years.