PistonHeads.com Forum

RE: Ditch the steering wheel: Speed Matters

RE: Ditch the steering wheel: Speed Matters

Friday 18th August

Ditch the steering wheel: PH Blog

Why reinventing the wheel we hold is probably long overdue



Funny our attachment to having a big hoop-shaped thing to steer our cars with isn't it. I'm not advocating a return to year zero and reviving the tiller-steered dynamics of the original Benz Patent Motorwagen. But why do we still have a bloody great wheel in front of us? It's not like we need the leverage to haul on non-assisted steering mechanisms any more. And with variable assistance, variable racks and the inevitable removal of any meaningful sense of steering feel we can gear our inputs in such a way as to go from lock to lock without spinning a wheel. Plus, they get in the way of stuff.


Flat-bottomed steering wheels have successfully been marketed as a 'because racecar' necessity on everything from supercars to Nissan Qashqais, whether you need the leg clearance to wriggle in or not. Let's face it, for many drivers it's more about room to swing your gut in as you climb aboard. Why not go the whole hog and adopt the yoke-like controls now common in all manner of racing machinery?

A few tentative steps have already been made in that direction by some of the more track-focused hypercars, not least the Aston Martin Vulcan and McLaren P1 GTR. The latter's looks little more than a slab of carbon fibre with thumb cutouts and might be a bit extreme for the next-gen Polo. But it's already happening, the 'pistol grip' contours of the Honda NSX's wheel subconsciously guiding you to hold the wheel this way.


This would also deal with two personal bugbears in one fell swoop too. First being no more endlessly repetitive arguments in the advanced driving section of the PH forum between the wheel shufflers and the fixed grippers. OK, it's a bit totalitarian. But if we go to something like this it won't matter if you're an SAS trained push-puller or a Super Licence endorsed arm crosser - the argument will be closed and you can find something more productive to do with your time. You can all thank me later.

I'll consider that a minor 'collateral' gain though. Because the main thing it would sort out is the moronic tendency for people to drive along using that gangster grip of a single hand crossed over the top of the wheel. OK, it looked nonchalantly cool for James Gandolfini in the opening credits for The Sopranos. But he was a gangster. Driving an American car with half a turn of play in the wheel. And fictional. It's less cool when driving along the M1, though that doesn't stop a worrying number of people doing it.


Who are they? Have you ever actually tried driving like this? It's near impossible, making it all the more worrying when all you can see in the mirror is the top of a grille, the lower half of a windscreen and through it a single clenched fist on top of the wheel. This is not the kind of person you want anywhere near you, especially at close proximity on a motorway. I take small comfort in the idea that, were they to run into the back of me, they'd get an airbag-assisted punch in the face. And save me the bother. But I'd rather just avoid being crashed into in the first place.

For solving this problem, not to mention the one of where to perch your iPad for binge-watching boxsets as your now-autonomous repmobile chauffeurs you to work, I think we finally bid farewell to the wheel. And embrace with both hands (correctly placed) the future of steering.

Dan

   
   
   
Author
Discussion

romac

Original Poster:

31 posts

68 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all
Come to think of it, why does it need to be attached to the car? Steer using the motion sensor on your iphone / android / etc!

Interestingly though, the rotary motion (whether full wheel or not) is much easier to use to steer a car than linear motion eg joystick?

Mammasaid

619 posts

19 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all
Didn't SAAB try this, but be stymied by regulations?



http://www.saabplanet.com/saab-9000-drive-by-wire-...

V8 FOU

2,185 posts

69 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all
Good article.
Love the "air bag assisted punch in the face" !

More worryingly is the total acceptance of shonky electric assistance. Why does everyone just roll over and accept this? Surely there could be an oportunity for someone to do hydraulic conversions to return some form of steering feel?
When I collected my new Mustang, as soon as I drove off the dealer forcourt I knew I had made a mistake. Sold the otherwise good car a few months later.

The round -ish steering wheel is Ok for me, just give us some feel to the steering. Oh, thank Gawd for Lotus.

CrutyRammers

8,503 posts

120 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all
It's not "funny", it's because it's the best control for the job.
But you know that, this is just clickbait.

Toltec

3,850 posts

145 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all
How about a couple of levers either side of the seat moving forwards and backwards, you can use one or the other for light inputs and both when driving more spiritedly. Your back can remain braced in the seat and your arms quite relaxed at your side, buttons on the levers can take care of indicators etc.
Advertisement

Mr E

17,590 posts

181 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all

TooMany2cvs

18,116 posts

48 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all
V8 FOU said:
More worryingly is the total acceptance of shonky electric assistance. Why does everyone just roll over and accept this? Surely there could be an oportunity for someone to do hydraulic conversions to return some form of steering feel?
When I collected my new Mustang, as soon as I drove off the dealer forcourt I knew I had made a mistake.
Apparently, some dealers allow test-drives of cars prior to purchase.

It'll never catch on.

Electric assistance is for three main reasons - packaging, mechanical efficiency, and cost. The vast majority of drivers neither know nor care about steering feel. If you really want steering feel, then lose the assistance completely. That's helped immensely by not having cars that weigh the same as a small planet, so don't need front tyres wider than a road-roller.

ambuletz

6,094 posts

103 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all
redesign it so it's like the star wars racers arcade machine. everyone will try it for 2minutes and give up. will free up the road for the rest of us that can actually use it.


HeMightBeBanned

434 posts

100 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all
If it aint broke, don't fix it.

The steering wheel remains because, in the absence of full autonomous vehicles, it's simply the most intuitive primary interface for taking human input and translating it into a change in the vehicle's direction. Anything else is just a gimmick.

joshleb

577 posts

66 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all
Have there been any drive by wire cars with handlebar steering?
Just wonder how that would compare to a wheel.

Variable ratio to take up the big movement needed for slow manoeuvres

TooMany2cvs

18,116 posts

48 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all
joshleb said:
Have there been any drive by wire cars with handlebar steering?
Just wonder how that would compare to a wheel.

Variable ratio to take up the big movement needed for slow manoeuvres
Manouvering is indeed the big problem with handlebars on a car - bikes work, because a lot of it at speed is weight transfer, rather than steering movement.

But variable ratio... Well, wake me up when they get that working well with a wheel.

V8 FOU

2,185 posts

69 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all
TooMany2cvs said:
Apparently, some dealers allow test-drives of cars prior to purchase.

It'll never catch on.

Electric assistance is for three main reasons - packaging, mechanical efficiency, and cost. The vast majority of drivers neither know nor care about steering feel. If you really want steering feel, then lose the assistance completely. That's helped immensely by not having cars that weigh the same as a small planet, so don't need front tyres wider than a road-roller.
Oh dear. Mustangs were unanvailable for test drives at the time of order.

Boosting you post count as usual with the bleedin' obvious!

TooMany2cvs

18,116 posts

48 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all
V8 FOU said:
TooMany2cvs said:
Apparently, some dealers allow test-drives of cars prior to purchase.

It'll never catch on.
Oh dear. Mustangs were unanvailable for test drives at the time of order.
I gather they're not as fast as parrots, anyway.

Perhaps you could have waited until they were available, if how the car actually drives is even vaguely important to you, rather than just being first in town to have a bit of bling?

Max_Torque

11,534 posts

139 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all
CrutyRammers said:
It's not "funny", it's because it's the best control for the job.
But you know that, this is just clickbait.
cripes, lighten up a bit eh! I liked Dan's article, clearly a bit of a joke and not mean't to be taken too seriously.

(Although in reality, pretty soon the Hand Wheel (<< correct name for what most people call the "steering wheel") will be consigned to history along with the notion of a car needing a 'driver'........ )

Toltec

3,850 posts

145 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all
TooMany2cvs said:
Manouvering is indeed the big problem with handlebars on a car - bikes work, because a lot of it at speed is weight transfer, rather than steering movement.
With bikes it is really the countersteer that does the work, you can shift your weight, but that is much slower and less precise. The precession force generated as a consequence of the countersteering force applied to the handle bars is a kind of power assisted steering. It is one of the reasons that inexperienced riders crash when they take a bend that is a bit tighter than they anticipated, their instinct is to steer into the bend and this makes it feel like the bike is fighting them and will not go around the corner.

A similar thing in cars is applying more lock in understeer rather than less.

arkenphel

352 posts

127 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all
CrutyRammers said:
It's not "funny", it's because it's the best control for the job.
But you know that, this is just clickbait.
Agreed.


Snubs

496 posts

61 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all
V8 FOU said:
Love the "air bag assisted punch in the face" !
+1 Worth reading just for that hehe

SpudLink

1,828 posts

114 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all
Mammasaid said:
Didn't SAAB try this, but be stymied by regulations?



http://www.saabplanet.com/saab-9000-drive-by-wire-...
That's what I though as I read the article. I don’t know if SAAB were serious, or just after a bit of marketing tie-in with their fighter planes. They were playing that for all it was worth at the time.

AW111

3,693 posts

55 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all
Sinclair C5 had handlebars.
Anyone here driven one?

mko9

640 posts

134 months

Tuesday 15th August
quotequote all
I think a wheel is probably the optimum steering interface, not just because it is all I have ever known. That said, the steering ratios could certainly be tightened up. No reason to be 2 rotations lock to lock when the wheels are only turning 30-40deg. The days of manual steering are long gone by.