Image courtesy of Rinspeed.

Image courtesy of Rinspeed.

The Rinspeed Etos concept car, set to debut at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week, is expected to highlight such automated driving and advanced occupant safety technologies as a retractable steering wheel and a roof air bag.

Rinspeed, a Swiss automotive company, chose a BMW i8 plug-in hybrid vehicle as the foundation for its self-driving concept car. The Etos is equipped with ZF TRW’s retractable steering wheel, which offers such functions as hands-on/hands-off detection to help support the driver during automated driving situations.

“The steering wheel system opens up a world of possibilities to the driver,” explained Guido Hirzmann, a ZF TRW group leader specializing in new technology and mechatronics. “By utilizing a driver mode manager (DMM) display located at the top of the steering wheel, the driver can choose whether to drive the vehicle himself or hand control over to the vehicle. In automated mode, the driver can simply fold the steering wheel and create more space for carrying out other activities or relaxation.”

During automated driving, the driver will no longer have to monitor the system. However, he or she will remain responsible for taking back control of the vehicle at any time when prompted. Driver monitoring is therefore a critical part of the development process. At CES, ZF TRW will demonstrate the multi-faceted interaction between human and machine, advancing new concepts in the realm of human-machine interface (HMI), the company said.

ZF TRW’s retractable steering wheel can provide more interior design options and permit a more customized environment for the driver, the company said. Additionally, the design and minimized space in the instrument panel allows the packaging of frontal air bags into the roof area.

“Our roof airbag, which is now in series production, is an effective solution which, in addition to offering enhanced styling flexibility, does not compromise occupant safety performance compared to conventional frontal airbag technologies,” said Dirk Schultz, engineering director of inflatable restraint systems for ZF TRW. “Upon deployment, the bag unfolds along the windscreen in front of the seat occupant, helping to restrain front seat passengers of varying shapes and sizes.”

In addition to the steering wheel and roof air bag, ZF TRW’s seat belt webbing is also fitted to the Etos.

“In the coming decade, our technologies will decisively shape the path towards autonomous driving,” said Stefan Sommer, ZF’s CEO. “Our goal is to enable automated driving functions across all vehicle segments. Only through high market penetration can we make a real difference to overall road safety.”

ZF TRW is the active and passive safety technology division of ZF Friedrichshafen AG. ZF completed its acquisition of TRW Automotive in May 2015.

CES 2016 will be held Jan. 6-9 in Las Vegas.