BMW has filed a patent application for a new type of steering “wheel.” The closest word in the English language we have for something like this is “yoke,” but that doesn’t really described the full insanity of the design. BMW calls it a steering “handle,” but a more accurate description would be something like two handles that will make the operator look like they’re using a Stairmaster.
Uncovered by Carbuzz, the steering handle patent has been filed to not just the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but its counterparts in Germany and China as well. They suggest that it would be used in an autonomous vehicle of some sort, to free up space that would be otherwise taken up by a traditional steering wheel.
The handle appears to consist of two grips that rotate around a fixed central hub. The grips L-shaped grips have their lower legs connected to a ring circling the hub, while the upper legs extend vertically, perpendicular from the plane of the hub toward the driver. The ring ensures that the grips are always on opposite sides of the hub from one another. However, as the user operates them, the two grips orbit the hub, spinning freely like crank handles.
We would say this goes quite a bit further in re-inventing the wheel than even the Tesla yoke, which is already terrible, but at least still operated like a regular steering wheel. However, this design is actually similar to an unusual Nardi aftermarket steering wheel called the Two Spokes, shown above. It has just two spokes with freely rotating fighter-style grips on each end, allowing you to keep your grip the same, at least until you have to do a full rotation of the wheel.
We can only think of one good reason for this steering handle to exist, and that’s potentially as a driving aid for persons with disabilities. However, the market already has spinner knobs that can be adapted to existing steering wheel designs.
Companies apply for patents for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it’s purely to stake a claim on a technology they’ll never use, or to prevent others from going to market with a similar idea. We hope this one stays in its conceptual form.