Tesla filed a patent 'Steering wheel assembly'

Tesla filed a patent 'Steering wheel assembly'

February 6, Tesla filed for 2 patents related to the steering wheel. Earlier, we examined an invention that relates to an interactive user interface for a steering wheel 'User interface for steering wheel'. To implement what is stated in the previous patent, Tesla needs to change the device of the current steering wheel.

International Filing Date: 01.08.2019
Publication Date: 06.02.2020

Steering wheel assemblies are associated with a number of automotive applications to allow a driver to maneuver a vehicle. Current steering wheel assemblies are primarily used to control a movement of vehicle. However, there are many other functionalities that the driver may need to change or update while driving, for example selecting driver-assist functionality, controlling the climate (for example increasing or decreasing the cabin temperature or increasing or decreasing the fan speed), making a telephone call, or another action. In such a situation, drivers typically have to remove at least one hand from steering wheel assembly to manipulate functionalities on another interface. This may distract the driver from driving.

Some steering wheel assemblies include scroll wheels or other mechanical switches for changing or updating vehicle functionalities. These have the advantage that the driver may manipulate certain functionality without removing the driver’s hands from the steering wheel assembly. However, unintentional touches may result in an undesired actuation of a vehicle system or may cause undesired change in vehicle functionalities. Hence, there is a need for an improved steering wheel assembly for determining user inputs that overcomes the aforementioned drawbacks.

This patent relates to a steering wheel assembly. A steering wheel assembly includes a steering rim and a steering housing connected to the steering rim and at least one pressure sensitive component disposed within the steering housing. The pressure sensitive components generates electric signals in response to force applied on the steering housing. They may include any one of at least one piezoelectric switch, a piezoelectric sensor, and a capacitive array. Further, this pressure sensitive components may provide a haptic feedback. A Printed Circuit Board (PCB) disposed within the steering housing is electrically connected to the at least one pressure sensitive component. The PCB includes a controller that determines a user input or a gesture made by a user on the steering housing based on the electric signals received from the at least one pressure sensitive component.

FIG. 1 illustrates a front view of an exemplary steering wheel assembly according to certain embodiments of the disclosure.

FIG. 1 illustrates a front view of a steering wheel assembly 100 associated with a vehicle (not shown), for example, a passenger car, a truck, a sport utility vehicle, or a van. Steering wheel assembly 100 allows a user to maneuver the vehicle. Steering wheel assembly 100 includes a steering rim 102. Steering rim 102 is generally circular is shape. Further, a steering housing 104 is connected to steering rim 102. Steering housing 104 includes a central portion 118. Further, steering housing 104 includes a first portion 120 extending horizontally from a right side of central portion 118 and a second portion 122 extending horizontally from a left side of central portion 1 18. Additionally, a third portion 124 extends vertically from a lower side of central portion 118.

Steering housing 104 is manufactured by performing various manufacturing steps on a film (not shown) that is made of a material, for example, polycarbonates. For manufacturing steering housing 104, the film is printed with desired graphics. The graphics may include graphics associated with visual feedback areas, for example, a badge 106 or indicators 108 that are indicative of a selected gear engagement of the vehicle. Further, the film is also printed with electrical circuits. Such electrical circuits may be used to establish electrical connections between a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) 406 (shown in FIGS. 4, 8, and 10) and a pressure sensitive component 404 (shown in FIGS. 3 and 4) or between a control unit 410 (shown in FIG. 4) of the vehicle and indicators 108. Further, one or more surface mount Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) 502, 504 (shown in FIG. 5) and flex circuits are also disposed on the film. The film is further subjected to thermoforming in order to give steering housing 104 a three-dimensional shape. Further, the thermoformed film is cut to achieve a desired shape of the steering housing 104.

FIG. 4 illustrates a user input determination system for determining a user input on the steering wheel assembly according to certain embodiments of the disclosure.

FIG. 8 illustrates a capacitive array associated with the steering housing according to certain embodiments of the disclosure.

FIG. 8 illustrates such an embodiment where pressure sensitive component 404 is embodied as a capacitive array 802 disposed at first portion 120 of steering housing 104. In embodiments, steering housing 104 may include a set of capacitive arrays provided at each of first and second portions 120, 122 of steering housing 104. Further, capacitive array 802 may be printed on film during manufacturing of steering housing 104. Capacitive array 802 may include a number of capacitive sensors that are arranged to allow determination of user input. Such capacitive sensor may include any one of an active capacitive sensor or a passive capacitive sensor. Capacitive array 802 senses proximity of user’s finger. In certain embodiments, capacitive array 802 senses user inputs through gestures made directly on input area 402 and/or through proximate interaction of user’s touch on input area 402. For example, capacitive array 802 may sense that user’s finger is approaching capacitive array 802. Further, capacitive array 802 may sense various types of user inputs or gestures, for example, swiping right, sliding up and down, swiping down, clicking, long pressing etc.


FIG. 10 illustrates the PCB and a connection bus according to certain embodiments of the disclosure.

PCB 406 is connected to pressure sensitive component 404 through a connection bus 1002 (shown in FIG. 10). In the illustrated embodiment, PCB 406 is disposed in the first portion 120 of steering housing 104. 

Featured image: Tesla patent

About the Author

Eva Fox

Eva Fox

Eva Fox joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover breaking news as an automotive journalist. The main topics that she covers are clean energy and electric vehicles. As a journalist, Eva is specialized in Tesla and topics related to the work and development of the company.

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