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Ford to ditch steering wheels in driverless cars of the future

Matthew Field
Ford's autonomous vehicle division - Ford

Ford has moved a step closer in its plans to make autonomous vehicles after it was granted a patent for a car with a fully removable steering wheel and foot pedals.

The US car giant's design would allow the steering wheel to be removed from the vehicle, placing the air bag in a compartment in front of what was the driver's seat.

Ford said the steering wheel, which would be refitted if needed for tasks such as testing the car, could be an optional extra in future.

"[The removable wheel] enables the easy provision of a steering wheel as a customer-requested option," the company said in the patent.

Ford's patent for a removable wheel Credit: US Patent Office

The designs are part of Ford's long term plans to remove steering wheels from its self-driving cars. The company hopes to create a fully autonomous car that doesn't require a human driver.

Semi-autonomous features, such as Tesla's autopilot, have resulted in drivers testing self-driving systems to their limits. Ford has previously said fully removing the driver will create a safer driverless car.

The big players | Driverless cars

Ford does not expect to profit from autonomous cars until 2021. Earlier this year, the company announced a $1bn (£800m) investment in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence company that will produce the software needed for a new generation of self-driving cars.

Major car and tech companies are preparing for the dawn of self-driving cars. Fiat Chrysler recently entered into a self-driving car alliance with BMW and Intel, while major tech companies Google and Uber have been battling over the  technology.

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