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Passenger side steering wheel as common equipment

More cars are being made "drive-by-wire" where the controls are electronic, and even in cars with mechanical steering, throttle and brake linkages, there also exist motorized controls for power steering and cruise control. (It's less common on the brakes.)

As this becomes more common, it would be nice if one could pop in a simple, short duration control console on the passenger's side. It need not be large, full set of controls, it might be more of the video game console size.

The goal is to make it possible for the driver to ask the passenger to "take the wheel" for a short period of time in a situation where the driving is not particularly complex. For example, if the driver wants to take a phone call, or eat a snack or even just stretch for a minute. For long term driving, the two people should switch. It could also be used in an emergency, if the driver should conk out, but that's rare enough I don't think it's all that likely people would have the presence of mind to pop out the auxilary controls and use them well.

The main question is, how dangerous is this? Disabled people drive with hand controls for throttle and brakes, though of course they train with this and practice all the time. You would want people to practice driving with the mini-console before using it on a live road. A small speed display would be needed.

While it's possible to just pass over steering, and have the person in the driver's seat be reading with brakes that seems risky to me, even if it's cheaper. Driving from the other side of a car has poorer visibility, of course, but it's legal and doable. However, I wouldn't recommend this approach for complex city driving.

We're used to a big wheel, but almost everybody is also comfortable with something like fold out handlebars that could pop out from the glovebox. (There is an airbag problem with this, perhaps having the bars be low would be better. As they are electronic, they can even pop up from under the front of the seat, or the console between the two seats.) Motorcycle style throttle -- clutch would be too much work.

Driving schools would like to buy this of course. They already get cars with a passenger side brake pedal.


You should check out the GM Hywire concept cars.

Yes, I've seen some of these. They are all designed to allow installation of the driving controls on either side for global sales, of course, and I even saw one that the user could shift the console from side to side (presumably only while stopped.) I'm talking about a second, short-term-use, driving console in the passenger seat to let the passenger take the wheel while driving.

Today, we're seeing more and more evidence that cell phone conversations, even with handsfree, may impair driving. The prime use for this would be to let the driver safely take a call. People really want to be able to take calls on their car trips.

"(It’s less common on the brakes.)"

Electronic brakes are pretty common now. Both of my mid-range Toyotas have the ability to electronically apply the brakes or override driver input, as does most any car with "stability control" and ABS. The throttles are both 100% drive-by-wire. Only the steering doesn't have a computer override built in.

the “take the wheel” argument is brilliant ;)
some automatic safety systems should be on the place, in case the passengers controls activate by them selves or something from the Murphy Laws..

Brad, check out site i've just started - - you might like it, i need some idea-support from restless people with ideas!
Read on my blog to find out more :)

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