GM Design imagines a steering non-wheel of the future

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Tesla's again grabbed metric yards of headlines over its yoke steering wheel for the new Model S. While it's the first yoke-shaped wheel to make an OEM production vehicle, the type has been imagined and tried on cars, and for sale, for years. Syd Mead's original twin yokes in the "Blade Runner" Spinner that turned into the cinematic version and the gullwing wheel in K.I.T.T. are two well-known versions, but OEMs were experimenting with the design on real concepts at the same time. The yoke and digital dash in the 1986 Oldsmobile Incas concept will still look current in 2050. GM Design recently tapped its own well, posting a design for a new yoke-like steering wheel with a central digital display on Instagram.

Looking like a smartphone display held in landscape orientation with leather handles and contrasting stitching, the images show the wheel in two driving modes. The main screen puts a driver assistance image in the center, surrounded by wispy graphics that, as one commenter correctly noted, look like a Winamp skin. Flanking that are a fuel meter on the left, and oil and water temperature bars on the right. The edges are lined with numerical readouts on the left, and an infotainment-like menu on the right. The wheel handles contain buttons for what we assume are regen braking strength, hard Home and Menu buttons, and a mystery turquoise button that conflicts with the red mood lighting.

In Human Drive mode, the main screen gets its feed from a forward facing camera. In the image, a set of video game graphics show what could be the best line through traffic, as the vehicle's computers highlight various road furniture with colored boxes. There are fewer menu options on the right, which is only right since the human needs to be looking either at the wheel or through the windshield. In this case, the human will need to pay intense attention, as the speedo in the lower left reads 108 miles per hour. Even wilder, it seems the car is in fifth gear — as if there will be gears in the future. Perhaps the line of dotted yellow lights on the right of the wheel is begging the driver to shift.

GM Design didn't have anything to add to the renders other than "Think outside the box." If you'd like to try doing that in your own vehicle right now, you should know that Nardi sells a yoke steering wheel it calls simply "Two Spokes." The handles on the Two Spokes rotate, making tight turns a little easier, if not exactly easy, demonstrating why yoke wheels are still cooler in concepts than production cars.

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