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This Car Cockpit of the Future Features Joystick Control and No Pedals

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 7/6/2018 Matthew Askari
This Car Cockpit of the Future Features Joystick Control and No Pedals: Intended for automated cars, it allows manual control to remain an option. Read more about this prototype interior from ZF and see photos at Car and Driver.© Matthew Askari - Car and Driver Intended for automated cars, it allows manual control to remain an option. Read more about this prototype interior from ZF and see photos at Car and Driver.

While automakers have been busy showing takes on the vehicle controls of the future, suppliers ZF and Faurecia have teamed up to show off an intriguing version of their own, which they’ve named the Trendsetting Cockpit. We checked it out at ZF’s headquarters in Friedrichshafen, Germany, and found a few notable aspects that set this one apart.

ZF and Faurecia opted to use an existing Mercedes-Benz V-class fan to house their prototype. Immediately noticeable is the fact that the vehicle lacks both a steering wheel and any pedals whatsoever. But unlike many other futuristic concepts—like General Motors’ Bolt EV­–based model—this one can be driven manually using an integrated, joystick-like control lever that offers brake-by-wire, accelerate-by-wire, and steering-by-wire functions. Acceleration is accomplished by pulling the controller back and braking by pushing the lever forward; while this might seem counterintuitive, ZF’s engineers said this setup was chosen because these are the directions your body moves during those events. 

a car parked in a parking lot: This Car Cockpit of the Future Features Joystick Control and No Pedals© Matthew Askari - Car and Driver This Car Cockpit of the Future Features Joystick Control and No Pedals

In addition to ergonomic advantages, it can be driven from either the left or right seat, and drivers can swap seamlessly. ZF thinks this will be especially advantageous for what it sees as the primary customers for such a setup: delivery vans and taxis. We were able to switch ourselves from one seat to another fairly easily, and in theory, this could be a convenience for deliveries or passengers getting into or out of a vehicle. It also makes for a more efficient setup for automakers who produce light-duty vehicles for both left- and right-hand-drive markets.

There are three touchscreens in the cockpit, and a primary tabletlike screen near the controller features secondary driving functions such as turn signals, windshield wipers, and a horn. There’s also a button labeled AD that opens up the Autonomous Drive menu. ZF says this prototype could be Level 4 autonomous by late 2019. But in the lead-up and transition to automated driving-whenever that might actually occur-this type of setup could alleviate concerns from consumers and markets that want manual driving to remain possible in cars. 

The concept was shown during ZF’s Technology Day, as the century-old supplier looks to expand beyond its core business of automotive parts and systems that include its widely used eight-speed automatic transmission.

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