Volkswagen Copies One of the Worst Tesla Features As They Patent Stalkless Steering Wheel

Volkswagen patents a stalkless steering wheel 7 photos
Photo: Volkswagen/DPMA
Volkswagen patents a stalkless steering wheelVolkswagen patents a stalkless steering wheelVolkswagen patents a stalkless steering wheelVolkswagen patents a stalkless steering wheelVolkswagen patents a stalkless steering wheelVolkswagen patents a stalkless steering wheel
Tesla's cost-cutting measures are carefully watched by other players in the automotive industry. Volkswagen has already filed to patent a new steering wheel design integrating the controls for most important car functions. This means that turn signal stalks could disappear. This is something that Tesla has already eliminated from the Model S and Model X, with plans to do the same for the upcoming Model 3 refresh.
When Tesla launched the refreshed Model S/Model X in 2021, everybody wowed at the sight of the new yoke. The design was so cool that people forgot about the essential operation of a steering wheel, which involves a lot of circular movements. As the first customers got to drive the new cars with a yoke, the design's shortcomings became apparent. Only Tesla's die-hard fans continued to claim the yoke was better. Most Tesla customers asked for the round steering wheel to return.

Tesla surprisingly listened and brought it back, first as a retrofit, then as an option, and now as the default selection for the Model S and Model X. This shows how unpopular the yoke was. Still, Tesla refused to walk back on an arguably equally stupid decision, which was replacing the stalks with capacitive buttons. Not only that, but it doubled down on it, as the refreshed Model 3 would also feature a stalkless design.

You can't argue with the benefit of cost reduction, as the stalks and other physical switches have their price, however small. If Tesla can save $10 per vehicle, this means $20 million for the total number of cars planned for 2023. Tesla sacrificed the ultrasonic sensors without blinking, so stalks are a small loss for drivers. The worst part is that the same strategy appeals to other carmakers. Volkswagen is one of them, especially as it's in a tight spot considering the demand woes the German carmaker is facing.

Volkswagen is already a pioneer in eliminating physical switches after the ID.4 came with only two window switches instead of four. Toggling between front and rear windows is made via a capacitive button instead of a physical switch to save money. Now, Volkswagen filed a patent to save even more by eliminating the last physical controls from the cockpit. These include the stalks used as the turn signal switches.

Volkswagen filed a patent with the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA) for a multifunctional steering wheel with capacitive rim switches for the most-used car functions. These include turn-signal, headlights, skip song, and other controls that are now in a physical form. The number of switches on the steering wheel rim varies depending on the type of vehicle, with entry-level models featuring fewer controls.

Based on the patent first revealed by CarBuzz, the steering wheel would feature two groups of buttons, one on each side. The left side houses the primary controls, akin to a top category in a stacked menu. Once a primary button is selected, it unveils the available options on the right side of the steering wheel rim, allowing the driver to select the appropriate one. Volkswagen claims this design could boost safety and save manufacturing costs at the same time.
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 Download: Volkswagen steering wheel design patent (German) (PDF)

About the author: Cristian Agatie
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After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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