When production of the iNext begins in 2021, it will be BMW's technology flagship. It'll be an electric crossover with at least 372 miles of range and will be equipped with autonomous driving capabilities. Because the driver will have the luxury of choosing whether or not to drive, BMW wanted to create an interior that takes this into consideration. Part of BMW's interior reimagination includes a newly shaped polygonal steering wheel, which was just unveiled for the first time.
BMW says it chose a polygon shape for its steering wheel, which was not seen in early spy shots, in part because it benefits switching between driving and allowing the autonomous systems to take control. The design's contours, which BMW says were inspired by motorsports, are flat at the top and bottom and rounded at the corners. This not only allows for a comfortable place to rest the hands, but it makes it simpler to re-take control of the wheel, as explained here:
As compared to a circular shape, this makes it much easier to recognize the steering angle based on the position of the steering wheel. The moment the driver re-takes control of the vehicle, they can detect the current steering angle instantly – both visually and by means of touch – so as to be able to continue travelling in the BMW iNEXT safely and supremely on the course already commenced.
The car will communicate with the driver to let them know when autonomous technology can be used. The side sections of the steering wheel have optical fibers that show different colored signals. These signals will alert the driver to the availability of "highly automated driving functions" or will tell the driver when active steering is needed.
BMW also says the wheel design, particularly the flat bottom, is ideal for ingress and egress, seating comfort, and creating a better view of the instrument cluster. Said cluster will be integrated into the enormous dashboard screen that BMW showed off in May.
Judging by BMW's slow teaser drip, we expect to see more of the iNext soon before it fully debuts. But for now, look to the iNext Concept for more clues.