2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Will Feature Touch-Sensitive Steering Wheel

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【Summary】Thanks to a two-zone sensor, the steering wheel on the new luxury midsize sedan will know when the driver’s hands are on the wheel.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    May 09, 2020 6:00 AM PT
2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Will Feature Touch-Sensitive Steering Wheel

Mercedes-Benz has been packing its vehicles with loads of high-tech safety features these days. The cutting-edge tech doesn't just apply to the brand's infotainment system, but also when it comes to safety features. The new 2021 E-Class, which is expected to arrive later this summer, will wear a redesigned exterior and feature updated powertrains. But one of the niftier features the E-Class will have include three new steering wheels with all-new touch-sensitive tech.

Improving On Current Technology

The updated steering wheels expand on technology that's found on current-gen wheels found in Mercedes' vehicles. Owners will note that Mercedes-Benz's steering wheels have small raised touch-sensitive areas on both spokes. The pads are used to control the infotainment system through vertical and horizontal swipes. The new steering wheels that Mercedes is set to introduce expand on the tech with more capacitive-touch switches on the spokes and add a touch-sensitive rim into the mix. The two-zone sensor allows the car to tell if the driver's hands are on the steering wheel.

That may seem like an overly complicated way of being able to tell if a driver is holding the wheel or not, but the system works in conjunction with Mercedes' semi-automated steering assistance function. While the system can provide some steering support for the driver, it requires the driver to have a hand on the wheel at all times. At the moment, Mercedes relies on wheel movement to ensure that's happening, but with the next-gen steering wheels, it won't have to do that anymore.

Mercedes will offer its touch-sensitive tech in three different steering configurations: Sport, Luxury, and Supersport. All of them will have a unique look that matches their names. The Luxury will have three gloss-black spokes and the airbag housed in a round casing. The Supersport configuration will have a flat bottom and three two-bar spokes for a sporty, yet interesting look.

Why The Tech Is Important

As Engadget points out, Mercedes isn't the first to use capacitive steering wheels in its vehicles. Cadillac's Super Cruise system brings a touch-sensitive steering wheel on top of eye-tracking cameras to keep a watchful eye on drivers to make sure they're paying attention. The Audi e-tron also has a touch-sensitive capacitive steering wheel.

While advanced driver-assist systems help drivers on long journeys, they've been shown to lead to distracted driving. Tesla has especially come under fire for having self-driving features that drivers can become reliant on. Mercedes-Benz's new steering wheel isn't the perfect answer to making distracted driving a thing of the past, but it's a step in the right direction and should be more difficult to trick than its current system.

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