When you sit in the driver's seat, the steering wheels, which determine many criteria such as design, ergonomics, the additional convenience it provides to the controls, and the emotion it gives, differ for each vehicle.
At Audi, a special team of experts provides the answer to how much more the steering wheels, which have transformed from a leather-covered steel structure to a control center, have made significant improvements by adhering to these criteria in automobile history
An innovative spirit and passion for detail characterize the work of the steering experts at Audi. From designing the layout and selecting materials, to the production of the first prototypes, the performance of the endurance test and the production of the production model, the development process of the new generation Audi steering wheels can take between four and five years.
The steering wheel, which has transformed from a leather-covered steel structure to a high-tech command center that meets superior design and quality standards over a period of thirty years, is extremely special for the Audi brand. In the past 11 years, the brand has launched four generations of steering wheels in more than 200 different models and designs for different Audi models.
From feature list to basic design
It is necessary to constantly balance the contrasting demands of design and ergonomics, and the steering wheel must be easy to handle and meet defined ergonomic requirements. Being able to do this requires finding the best solutions at the very beginning of the development process.
Audi engineers first developed the next generation Audi steering wheel from various design sketches and package requirements. Organizing a wide variety of functions, providing them with an intuitive operation that allows drivers to fully focus on the road without complicating the steering was the most important part of the process.
In the first step of the development process, the development team creates an overview of all required functions. The next step is to cluster relevant functions together, to predict where the clusters should be located, and to select the appropriate control elements in the process of creating the overall design. The result is a basic design with modifications specific to the model and its features.
Individual steering wheel for each model
The operation and comfort functions of a steering wheel are defined specifically for each model. For example, the steering wheel in the new Q4 e-tron can be used to control 18 different features. For example, the standard steering wheel, cover, decorative covering, colors, applications and technical functions are different from the optional models; There are 4 different steering models for the Q16 e-tron alone. A new feature on this compact electric SUV is a steering wheel with an optional flattened upper and lower part. In addition to being extremely sporty, the design is particularly adapted to the new shape of the instrument and makes it easier to get in and out of the car.
Ergonomics, design and safety criteria
Steering wheel development at Audi generally adheres to a set of fundamental principles. First of all, the shape and center of the steering wheel should be designed to be as small and compact as possible. The diameter of the steering wheel should be kept standard at 375 millimeters. The oval design of the steering section should correspond to the natural frame of a closed palm, and its diameter should be approximately 30-36 millimeters. The driver should be able to operate the interior functions with his thumb without interfering with the car's actual steering process. The focus of the design should be sportiness and the steering wheel sleeves remain slim. And finally, surfaces and gap dimensions must meet Audi's quality standards.
In addition, steering development, as part of the driver's safety system, must comply with more than 35 laws and directives, some of which differ from one country to another, including technical specifications that govern passenger safety and collision behavior, design, materials and assistance systems. The only difference between Audi steering wheels, which have the same design around the world, from country to country, is related to the driver's airbag due to different crash requirements.
Step into passive safety: airbag in the steering wheel
Equipping the steering wheel in its models with airbags as standard since 1993, Audi has started a new era in passive car safety. The addition of an airbag to the steering wheel posed great challenges for designers and developers in the early days, as the shock absorber had to remain as small as possible. However, more space was saved with advances in technology and production processes.
Optimized through crash tests
The steering wheels must be able to withstand enormous stress in the event of a collision, without breaking parts such as the steering gear or panels. They are subjected to knee penetration or body block tests, where power and crash test dummies impact the steering frame at speeds of up to 26 km / h in various positions. Thus, high stress areas can be located and especially block structures and wall thicknesses can be optimized.
The steering feel also plays an important role in Audi. All Audi steering wheels with heated and / or Hands on detection are subjected to two-layer foam cushioning to achieve an exceptional level of surface quality and non-slip feel. This standard is applied down to the smallest detail and every control element. Drivers can also feel this at the click of extremely precise rotate / press action or Audi-specific steering wheel buttons. In addition to all these, Audi also focuses on three criteria in material selection: high quality, durability and longevity.