ZF can fit a screen and airbag into a steering wheel now


  • Future steering wheels will seemingly feature screens
  • Safety won’t be an issue as an airbag will still be present
  • No automaker has committed to a putting a screen in a steering wheel, yet

Screens are sprouting up everywhere in new cars, with some vehicles sporting door-to-door displays. Now ZF has found a way to breach one of the last screen-free zones on the dashboard.

As described by the company in a press release, ZF has developed a way to fit a screen and an airbag into a steering wheel. Its new Lifetec steering wheel moves the airbag from its typical location in the hub to a spot just above. The airbag then deploys through the space between the wheel rim and hub in the event of a crash.

With this design, “touch displays, or a central screen are now conceivable,” according to ZF. Moving the airbag out of the hub also for a single horizontal spoke with a “seamless, smartphone-like design” that can house touch controls for entertainment or driver-assistance functions, the company adds.

ZF Lifetec steering wheel

ZF Lifetec steering wheel

This is the latest step in an ongoing process of repackaging car interior components to cram in more screens. Mercedes-Benz also had to engineer airbags, in this case front passenger airbags, around its giant Hyperscreen display in order to ensure the crashworthiness of its electric cars. But even Mercedes hasn’t tried to put a screen in a steering wheel yet.

Startup Byton planned to include a small wheel-mounted display in its M-Byte electric SUV, along with a massive 48-inch curved display spanning the entire dashboard. Byton halted operations in 2020 due to cash troubles, and even with an investment from Foxconn announced in 2021, the M-Byte is likely dead.

ZF hasn’t announced a customer for its Lifetec steering wheel, but given the current enthusiasm for screen space among automakers, it may only be a matter of time until this wheel appears in a production vehicle.



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