Turns out we’ve been doing driving wrong for more than 100 years.
BMW has declared the steering wheel shouldn’t be round, revealing a teaser of its highly-anticipated iNext offering featuring its new “polygonal geometry” shaped tiller.
The iNext is BMW's first fully autonomous, zero-emissions vehicle and is set to hit the road in 2021. According to BMW its ability to be both driven by a human and drive itself means a traditional circular steering wheel wasn’t the best solution, so the wheel was reshaped for a number of reasons.
Instead of being circular the iNext wheel features a flattened top and bottom with rounded sides with large hand grips, which BMW claims will make it easier for the driver to retake control of the car from its autonomous mode.
BMW also says the wheel has fibre optics integrated into the rim that can signal to the driver the various stages of its autonomous functions.
Another benefit of the polygonal geometry is ergonomics, with BMW claiming that with the new shape, the driver will be able to bend both their legs to stretch when the car is in its autonomous mode. Entering and exiting the driver’s seat will be made easier too.
The German brand is also claiming the new shape will work better as part of the entire interior of the iNext, which promises to be a bold departure from BMW’s current interior design. By having a larger top half of the wheel the driver will have a better view of the display panel that will replace a traditional instrument cluster.
The BMW iNext was previewed by the Vision iNext concept in September 2018. The concept featured a rectangular steering wheel as part of its minimalist interior.
Based on the concept we expect the production version of the iNext will be an electric SUV similar in size to the X5 and will be the brand’s “new technology flagship” when it arrives.
Of course, flat-bottomed steering wheels are nothing new in the automotive world, with performance cars often using the motorsport-inspired shape. But it seems they are set to become more commonplace as carmakers look for better ergonomics.
Just last week the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette was unveiled with its squared-off, two-spoke wheelt that the American brand announced was designed to provide a better view of the instrument panel.