As self-driving cars seemingly draw nearer, it doesn’t take much effort to figure out that the future looks bleak for the humble steering wheel. But if Jaguar Land Rover had their way, the currently essential component would still be relevant when AI driven cars drive in. Thanks to their new steering wheel design for concept cars, dubbed Sayer (after influential designer Malcolm Sayer), there should still be a steering wheel in your car when you’re no longer doing the steering bit of driving. The concept will be outlined further at Jaguar Land Rover Tech Fest, an event aimed at highlighting the cutting edge in transportation today – basically ideas like self-driving, on-demand ridesharing and more.
How does it work?
The wheel, designed as a concierge system, would have its own AI that would follow you from car to car in a self-driven world. Perhaps that could be the reason why the steering wheel won’t really be found in your car. Yeah, you read that right.
Featuring technology like voice control, the steering wheel is conceptualised for a future where you do not need to own a car. On the other hand, you will be interacting with a number of self-driven concierge based cars on a daily basis. Sayer is aimed to be the one AI interface that you need for all of them.
According to a report by Motor1, Sayer will also function as your personal mobility assistant. For instance, say you have a meeting scheduled at 10 am. The AI will personally remind you when to wake up and will determine when a self-driving car needs to cruise into your driveway. It could also suggest which part of the journey a driving enthusiast might appreciate the most, letting them take over the wheel for those stretches.
In terms of design, there’s not much going on with the steering wheel. The design has no buttons and will be projecting information onto the surface made of brushed aluminium. That being said, there is a physical button on the design but its features are unknown as of now.
Jaguar’s other innovations
So far, Jaguar has been showing great promise in the direction of electric vehicles. Their I-PACE Concept SUV, scheduled for a 2018 release, maximises interior space in a car by pushing the various drivetrain components underneath the cabin. And they had also inked a deal with Lyft, the ride hailing service, earlier this July worth $25million and also provided them with cars for testing self-driving technology.
Will this happen?
While the design does put an interesting proposition for the steering wheel in a driverless age, it is unlikely that this will see a practical application in commercial self-driving vehicles, if they are even around the corner. For starters, most of the things that the steering wheel seems to be doing can already be done by smart assistants that reside on your smartphone and smart speakers. That being said, this could provide an interesting precedent to car engineers as to how to transform conventional car tech into something more useful for a driverless future. It is definitely needed since we won’t have much else to do in a car once they start driving themselves.