Express & Star

New airbag design could introduce screens to the steering wheel

The team at ZF Lifetec has developed a new steering wheel design in order to expand design possibilities for future vehicles.


A new steering wheel design has been developed to help keep up with modern car interiors by the team at ZF Lifetec.

Despite revolutionising in-car safety, every airbag fitted to a vehicle in the last three decades has deployed from the central part of the wheel. However, this new design enables the driver’s airbag to deploy from the top, through the upper steering wheel rim towards the occupant.

Thanks to this new airbag position, ZF Lifetec has been able to experiment with steering wheel design, allowing the horizontal spoke and hub to have a seamless smartphone-like design.

Harald Lutz, Head of Development at ZF Lifetec said: “With this new concept, we are enabling design freedom for steering wheels without compromising safety.”

Car manufacturers are reducing gaps and joints in their interiors to make them look more futuristic as well introducing more ambient lighting, too.  ZF Lifetec feels steering wheel design will follow suit in making the human machine interface (HMI), with potential future steering wheels boasting touchscreen displays and other screens.

However, due to its importance of safety, user-friendliness will be key in making sure any future steering wheel design focuses on function, as well as form.

ZF Lifetec says a hybrid solution is in the works with rotary switches, as well as force-sensitive and tactile surfaces integrated into the steering wheel as an anchor point – allowing the driver to operate the system safely.

Furthermore, hands-on detection and a capacitive sensor under the leather surfaces can recognise how much grip the driver is applying to the wheel, ensuring focus on the road ahead and control of the vehicle is prioritised.

There is no word on when the airbag innovation will be seen on a production vehicle, but German company ZF Lifetec says it has designed a new generation of steering wheel to “expand the design possibilities of future-oriented interior concepts”.

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.