Tesla has submitted a new patent for an updated steering wheel design with integrated touchpads, gesture controls, and haptic feedback. Small touchpads located on both sides of the steering wheel would provide improved user experience through gesture controls, notes Tesla in its patent filing.
By incorporating everyday gesture controls that have become ubiquitous in smartphones, like swiping and pinching, will give Tesla drivers a safer and more efficient means to navigate through vehicle features.
For example, if a driver wanted to turn the volume up for music or a phone call, they could slide their finger from the bottom to the top of the steering wheel touchpads. Haptic feedback would be signaled through a “slide vibration”, while visual feedback would come in the form of dimmed lights on the touchpads. Sound feedback would also be present on driver-initiated actions.
“a user interface provided on at least one portion of the steering wheel, the user interface configured to recognize gesture movements made by a user, and wherein the user interface allows navigation of a set of controls associated with a menu provided through the user interface based on the gesture movements,” reads the Tesla’s patent description for User Interface for Steering Wheel.
As seen in an illustration included in the design patent, Tesla’s proposed steering wheel will be void of the vehicle’s traditional Autopilot stalk and place driving functions like Park, Reverse, Drive, and Neutral directly on the bottom of the steering wheel.
Tesla describes the new driving controls as, “The user interface of the steering wheel may additionally include indicators provided at a lower portion of the steering wheel indicative of a selected gear engagement of the vehicle. For example, the user interface may provide illuminated indications of engagement of Park, Reverse, Neutral, or Drive modes.”
It’s still unclear if Tesla intends to incorporate the new steering wheel design into its vehicles, including the upcoming Plaid Model S, Cybertruck, or next-generation Roadster, but the electric carmaker is clearly thinking of additional driver safety features that would reduce driver distraction.
Tesla’s patent filing for User Interface for Steering Wheel can be found here.