The steering wheel is an important component of modern-day vehicles. Located in front of the driver-side dashboard, it’s used to control a vehicle’s steering column. While nearly all cars, trucks and SUVs on the road currently use a conventional wheel-shaped steering wheel, Tesla is considering the use of a touchscreen-based steering wheel in its line of electric vehicles.
Earlier this month, the American electric vehicle maker Tesla filed a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for a steering wheel with touchscreen interfaces. The newly filed patent reveals a steering wheel with a capacitive touchscreen display at the bottom as well as the right and left sides.
It’s important to note that the touchscreen-based steering wheel doesn’t consist entirely of touchscreen displays. Rather, it only features three small touchscreen displays: one on the bottom and two on the sides. The embedded touchscreen displays feature virtual buttons that the driver can tap or touch to control the vehicle.
Furthermore, the embedded touchscreen displays support various gesture commands. Swiping from side to side, for example, allows the driver to change tracks played by the vehicle’s stereo system. If the driver wants to listen to the next track, he or she can swipe from left to right. If the driver wants to listen to the previous track, on the other hand, he or she can swipe from right to left.
Tesla’s touchscreen-based steering wheel is also capable of producing tactile feedback. Also known as haptics feedback, as well as simply haptics, tactile feedback is a physical force that’s created by a touchscreen device in response to a user’s touch command. Like many touchscreen devices, Tesla’s touchscreen-based steering wheel uses vibrations for tactile feedback. When the driver performs a touch command, the steering wheel will vibrate, thereby informing the driver that his or her command was registered.
“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,” wrote Tesla the company’s recently filed patent.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that Tesla will include the touchscreen-based steering wheel in its vehicles. The company may simply be trying to protect its invention by filing the patent. Regardless, the use of touchscreen displays in steering wheels is certainly an innovative idea.