TRW developing fully-retractable steering wheel to aid elderly

With the over-65 population growing at a rapid rate (36.9 million in 2009 and set to hit 72.1 million by 2030), automakers are intent on making driving easier for the elderly. To that end, automotive supplier TRW is developing a folding steering wheel concept that retracts into the dashboard, allowing older drivers to get in and out with ease.

The wheel is bisected into two smaller handles that fold inward when the vehicle is shut down, mounting nearly flush with the rest of the dashboard. When the driver gets back in, the wheel extends outward to the driver's chosen position and can be set at multiple angles for different users.

Ideally, TRW's steering wheel solution would be part of a larger initiative to make driving easier for people with limited mobility, and partnered with voice commands and more legible buttons and interfaces, the wheel could be part of a elderly-focused equipment package as early as 2016. Full details in the press blast after the break.
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A Glimpse of Tomorrow's Dashboard From TRW

TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. (NYSE: TRW) ), the global leader in active and passive safety, today unveiled a folding steering wheel concept which retracts into the dashboard to improve driver comfort getting in and out of a vehicle.

Manuel Poyant, development manager, Steering Wheel Systems and Driver Airbags, said: "The automotive industry is being influenced by some key factors such as a more active older population and the growth of mega cities. As a result, vehicle manufacturers and suppliers need to find innovative solutions to improve driver accessibility and interior styling for smaller cars (A and B platform as well as electric cars).
"The foldable steering wheel concept is a prime example of technology that allows easier access for elderly people and those faced with mobility challenges."

The futuristic design of the retractable steering wheel was developed following an internal study for future steering wheel requirements. It features two retractable handles that close fully to create a smaller shape which then folds away into the dashboard - significantly improving driver comfort and accessibility. When the vehicle is started, the steering wheel deploys into the driving position which can be pre-set and saved by any driver into their chosen position.

Poyant continued: "This technology could offer tangible, practical benefits in addition to the styling freedom it provides. The key benefit is to make it much easier for elderly drivers or other drivers with reduced mobility to get in and out of the vehicle. Due to the significant growth of small city cars, this technology could open up the possibility for even smaller cabin designs.

Our customers have shown interest in the concept and the introduction of this technology could be possible within the next 5 years."

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