Mercedes talks about how far steering wheels have come

Drivers take for granted that the steering wheel has always been around. No matter which brand of vehicle you purchase, they all have steering wheels and common controls. That wasn't always the case with the first Mercedes-Benz cars using a simple tiller for steering. Mercedes is talking up its new E-Class that will launch in the summer of 2020 that features a completely digitized generation of the steering wheel.The new E-Class will feature a capacitive steering wheel with a rim that contains a two-zone sensor mat that detects if the driver's hands are gripping the wheel. The spokes of the steering wheel have touch control buttons that work with digital signals. Mercedes says that the design of the steering wheel required developers and designers to work hand-in-hand.

Every millimeter of a circuit board determines how the surface of the wheel can be designed. The automaker says it's all about looks and haptics. The steering wheel is the only part of a vehicle that the drivers have intensive physical contact with, other than the seat, says Mercedes.

The new steering wheel has sensors on the front and back. No steering movement is required to signal the assistant systems that the vehicle is under control. The addition of capacitive buttons on the steering wheel eliminates mechanical operating surfaces. Mercedes knows that the buttons are all designed to operate at temperatures over 100-degrees Celsius.

Mercedes says that high-quality materials were selected that allow operation for all vehicle controls, even in an interior that's heated up by sunlight. Mercedes will offer the steering wheel in three versions: sport, luxury, and supersport. The diameter varies a bit depending on the version with the supersport measuring 370 mm and the luxury measuring 380 mm