A New Patent From BMW Shows Off a Joystick of Sorts That Could Arrive in Future Cars

If there’s one thing in the world that’s always constant, it’s time. And, as time constantly moves forward, so does our advancement in technology. Take self-driving cars, for example. In what seems like no time at all in the grand scheme of things, we’ve moved from cars with basic computers to cars that are capable of driving themselves in certain and very specific occasions. Soon, level 4 autonomy will be mainstream, but those won’t be perfect, and until we can fully give control over to artificial intelligence, we need to rethink how we as humans control automobiles. Well, that’s exactly what BMW is doing if this patent for a car-mounted joystick even comes close to being a reality.

Joysticks in Future Cars? BMW Seems to Think So

Forget Steering Wheels – Future BMWs Might Have a Joystick High Resolution Exterior
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Before I get into the nitty-gritty, let me just come out and say that while sometimes patents materialize into something big, other times they fade off into the void never to be seen or talked about again.

However, this patent from BMW actually comes off as somewhat feasible considering the fact that we’ve seen something similar in a BMW concept from the past.

Don’t remember a car with a joystick? Well, this isn’t your typical single-stalk joystick but one that resembles something you might find in an airplane. Still at a loss? Well, think about the almost-alive BMW Vision Next Concept.

Forget Steering Wheels – Future BMWs Might Have a Joystick
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The patent image that you see here was unearthed by the folks over at i4talk forums, and it really does look familiar. It’s similar to what we saw in the Vision Next Concept but has been equipped to facilitate various thumb controls, a switchgear, a turn-signal control, and a wiper control to go along with a few other things that we can’t really identify. Basically, it could serve as a complete replacement for the steering wheel as we know it (goodbye century-old technology), but there’s a kicker. Since this design would likely be used in future cars with level 4 autonomy, you wouldn’t have to use it very often, if at all. Need an explanation? Well, let me start with what we have right now.

Does the self-driving BMW M Next concept Actually Preview the Next-Gen BMW i8?
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  • Level 3 Autonomy – Level 3 Autonomy is basically what we have right now in cars like the Tesla Model S or any car, really, that can do some of its own driving in certain circumstances.
  • Level 4 Autonomy – Level 4 Autonomy is the point at which the car can drive itself 90-percent of the time, only requiring human intervention in certain and limited circumstances – most likely on infrequently traveled roads or when car-to-infrastructure technology is down for whatever reason.
  • Level 5 Autonomy – Level 5 Autonomy is full-on self-driving. Your car will require zero intervention from you at any time, and you’ll be free to nap, work, play with the kids, or whatever else you want to do. Your car can even go out and serve as a taxi while you sleep if that’s what you choose to do.
Forget Steering Wheels – Future BMWs Might Have a Joystick
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With this in mind, Level 5 autonomy is still a long way away. Some automakers are even starting to doubt that it will even happen. Level 4 autonomy, on the other hand, probably isn’t that far off as we’re getting really close.

When that happens, and we fully transition into level 4, your car’s steering wheel will probably be tucked away inside the dash most of the time.

So, with limited use, a smaller, joystick-style “steering wheel” makes a lot of sense. With something that’s collapsible and smaller, packaging and hiding the joystick will be much easier to facilitate than tucking away the big steering wheels we have in cars today.

Forget Steering Wheels – Future BMWs Might Have a Joystick High Resolution Exterior
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Whether or not the joystick we see in this patent comes to life is a different story altogether, but when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Between the fact that we’ve seen something similar in previous BMW concepts and BMW’s patent, I’d say there’s a good chance we’ll see a similar design on a production car someday. When that will be is a complete mystery, but I’m willing to bet it’ll happen before the turn of the next decade.

Source: I4 Talk

Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert - robert@topsped.com
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read More
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