“Much of the innovation regarding safer touchscreens and controls has revolved around center stacks and the dashboard. But an even safer solution is to use the steering wheel itself as a way to control car functions. Of course, many functions can be controlled this way today; Autoliv just takes the approach to a new level.
The zForce steering wheel uses an infrared light system that detects when those lights are being covered up. Since interactions are not capacitive, or a touchscreen-based system, that means it can be worked even when the driver is wearing gloves — a welcome touch from a Swedish company.
How does it work? For example, if you receive a call when driving, instead of looking to the screen to accept or deny it, you can simply move your hand along the wheel.
On the inside of this wheel, instead of mechanical switches, there are two small touchscreens. These operate screens in the instrument panel that mirror many of the controls found in the center stack. Having the touchscreens located on the wheel keeps the driver’s hands and eyes forward.
The steering wheel is ready for production and two automakers have already signed on to use the technology in their cars (though Autoliv wouldn’t specify which ones); the touchscreens are still in development.”