In the past two decades, an increasing number of functions have migrated from their conventional console or dashboard locations to the steering wheel. Radio controls, cruise control functioning, and a number of other functions have been included into steering wheel technology.
These multi-function steering wheels, as they are referred to by some manufacturers, enhance driving safety by placing the most frequently used controls in one of the most convenient locations available — at the driver’s fingers. The eyes and hands of a motorist are crucial tools for driving. Maintaining your eyes on the road and your hands on the steering wheel can improve the safety of everyone in your car and those around you.
It is therefore not surprising that the most frequently used controls have been placed on the steering wheel.
- With cruise control, there are buttons for setting and adjusting speed.
- Usually used for altering the level or scanning pre-programmed radio stations, the controls of a sound system are typically used to modify the volume or scan
- Often via Bluetooth or comparable wireless connections
Other automobiles go even farther by incorporating air conditioning controls, a steering wheel warming, and even access to an onboard computer, such as the SmartGauge seen in the 2010 Ford Fusion. Typically, these controls are factory-installed and come with the vehicle, either as standard equipment or as optional enhancements. Some businesses, like as Pioneer, supply steering-wheel-mounted remotes for their aftermarket entertainment systems in order to increase driving safety.
Does the addition of all these devices to the steering wheel make it simpler for the driver to manage the features and functions, or does it make it more difficult?
Using Steering Wheel Controls
Utilizing steering wheel controls to increase driving safety is as straightforward as it gets. Manufacturers simply set the steering wheel buttons such that they may be reached with one or both thumbs without requiring the driver to take his or her hands from the wheel. Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel, as Jim Morrison, the rock-and-roll safety icon, sang: “Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.”
Even in the best-designed automobiles, having radio controls in the center console between the front seats compels the driver to take his or her eyes off the road for a second or two, or sometimes even longer, to locate the volume knob or station preset buttons. Once the driver locates the desired button or knob, one hand must leave the steering wheel in order to change the radio station or adjust the volume.
By putting buttons on the steering wheel, these unnecessary movements can be eliminated. Initially, the driver may have to look down to recall which button changes the radio station to the next preset or which toggle switch controls the level. But, after a few travels utilizing these controls, the driver will acquire acclimated to their positioning. After a little practice, you will be able to switch the radio station from your spouse’s to yours and turn up the volume without taking your eyes off the road or your hands off the driving wheel.
Phones that are compatible with wireless systems such as Bluetooth enhance automobile safety. Numerous states prohibit the use of handheld mobile phones while driving. A steering wheel with integrated controls for making and receiving phone calls makes the process much safer and more convenient.
So what is beyond these fundamental controls? Actually, quite a bit. Let’s examine the following page.
Advances in Steering Wheel Controls
As electronics in passenger vehicles have become smaller, more affordable, and more popular, advancements in steering wheel buttons have also increased driving safety.
First, the decreased cost of essential electronics has increased the prevalence of steering wheel controls. This alone enhances the safety of automobiles for everyone on the road. If more drivers are able to pay more attention to driving and less time adjusting the radio or fumbling for their phones, they will have a greater chance of avoiding accidents caused by split-second events.
Cruise control has been accessible via a button on the steering wheel for some time, but advancements in the cruise control system itself make this a high-tech safety feature. In some automobiles, when cruise control is on (via a button on the steering wheel, of course), sensors on the front bumper regulate the vehicle’s speed to provide a buffer between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you on the highway. It is popularly known as adaptive cruise control, and although not every new car is equipped with this advanced technology (at least not yet), the majority of cruise control functions positioned on the steering wheel contain up and down buttons for manually altering the vehicle’s speed.
The steering wheel controls of the new Ford Fusion Hybrid interact with its SmartGauge on-board computer and are a prime example of a highly complex steering wheel control system. The instrument panel in front of the driver consists of two LCD screens and a conventional speedometer in the middle. Depending on the amount and type of information the driver desires to view, he or she can utilize the controls on the steering wheel to view power usage, battery life, fuel economy, and more. This is in addition to the voice-activated Microsoft SYNC system, which is also accessible through the steering wheel. Following Jim Morrison’s advise to “Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel” becomes progressively simpler.
Follow the links below for further information about steering wheel controls and hybrid vehicles.