Mention is also made of a section of the steering wheel folding towards the driver. In this case, a mini “table-like shelf” can be created. We have to assume that using such a feature would only make sense in a fully autonomous vehicle. Indeed, the patent mentions that the steering wheel should be folded when the car is in an autonomous driving mode or state. The patent further points out that the design of this foldable steering wheel can reduce the risk of injury for a driver in an accident.
Stretchable artificial leather and other materials are mentioned. These will need to withstand the folding and unfolding of part of the steering wheel. Whether or not this unusual wheel design makes it into a 7 Series or X7 anytime soon remains to be seen, but it’s clear that autonomous driving has created the need for more flexible vehicle interiors that can be configured for whichever driving mode is active.