Volvo Car Corporation (Gothenburg, SE)

The disclosure described herein provides information on vehicles, steering systems, and steering assemblies for vehicles. A steering system may include a track that is generally oriented in relation to the vehicle. The direction from side-to-side could be almost horizontal and parallel to a surface, or substantially perpendicular to the vehicle’s forward-facing direction. A steering wheel is also part of the steering system that can slide along the track laterally. Another aspect of the present disclosure is that it has a steering wheel assembly which can be placed in laterally-varying locations in relation to the vehicle. The steering wheel assembly is designed to allow a driver to manually operate it from either a left-hand or right-hand side.

Automobiles are built to work in different countries, where there may differing rules and regulations. For instance, in certain countries the cars are driven on the right, andin others they are driven on theleft side of the road. Cars are typically manufactured using the steering wheel placed on the left side in countries with vehicles operating on the right side. In contrast, in countries where vehicles are driven on the left side of the road, the vehicles are usually manufactured with the steering wheel on the right side of the car.

In the field of manufacturing vehicles there has been large amount of research and development in the technology for autonomous vehicles (AVs). These vehicles can also be called automatic driving vehicles (ADVs) autonomous vehicles, self-driving automobiles, or driverless. The Society of Automotive Engineers has developed a method for determining the degree of autonomy at which vehicles can achieve. Level 0 is described as fully-human-operated mode, where the driver is a human who manages all aspects of the vehicle (e.g. steering as well as braking, accelerating, and steering). However, this can also be equipped with automated systems that can alert the driver to aid him. On the opposite end of the spectrum level, Level 5 can be described as a fully automated mode where no human intervention is needed. In actuality Level 5 may be described as a robot taxi mode or a state where the vehicle is driven in a completely automatic manner, even without human drivers. Insome cases, a Level 5 vehicle may be manufactured without steering wheel or any other devices that interface with humans.

Levels 1 to four of the SAE automation definitions permit the use of computer-controlled as well as human operation. Level 1 requires human control however, it may also include automated assistance such as cruise control, parking assistance, lanekeeping assistance, etc. Level 2 refers to an automated mode in which an automated system has total control of the vehicle (e.g. steering and braking, as well as acceleration). However, the driver should be in constant presence in order to make any intervention required. Level 3 is a state where the human driver can be “eyes off” and the system can control the vehicle. In Level 3 the driver has the ability to intervene , if needed, to input. Level 4 is the mode where the human driver is “mind of” and the automated system is able to control the vehicle completely, in this mode, human control may be non-existent or limited to specific conditions such as driving in areas with no defined boundaries, for making human decisions in traffic jamconditions, etc.

Therefore, there are many ways in which vehicles can be built in the present market to account for a number of different driving scenarios. For instance in the event that the vehicle is operating in a mode controlled by a human (e.g. Levels 0-2), a driver can be placed on the left or right sides of the vehicle, based on the rules of the country where the vehicle is being driven. If a vehicle is configured for use with more automated settings (e.g. Levels 3 and 4) and the steering wheel, accelerator, and brake pedal might not have to be utilized on a regular basis by a human driver In certain situations the human driver may not always be in a standard driving position.

Thus, there is a need for flexibility in the design of the manual driving positions inside an automobile to accommodate the various driving scenarios mentioned above. It is essential to create a vehicle that permits this flexibility while being safe, convenient and user-friendly both for the driver as well as passengers.

Accordingly, the present disclosure comprises the steering assemblies and vehicles that permit the steering wheel to be placed in a variety of lateral positions to allow the control of a human operator. In one embodiment, a steering system of an automobile is provided, in which the steering system includes an inclined track that is oriented in a direction that is side-to-side with respect to the vehicle. The side-to-side direction may be defined as being substantially horizontal with a ground surface and substantiallyperpendicular with a forward-facing direction of the vehicle. The steering system further includes a steering wheel adapted to slide laterally along the track.

According to another embodiment the vehicle is described by a front/back axis substantially oriented in a forward-facing direction. A lateral track can be added to the vehicle, which is set up in a parallel direction to the front and back axis. The vehicle could also have the steering wheel that has been designed to slide laterally along the track’s lateral side.

According to a further embodiment, the present disclosure further provides a vehicle having a steering wheel assembly adapted to be positioned in laterally varying locations with respect to the vehicle. The steering wheel assembly could be further adapted to allow the driver to operate the vehicle using at least the left-hand side of the vehicle, or from a right-hand side of the vehicle.

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