The Toyota bZ4X and Lexus RZ should offer a steer-by-wire system, i.e. steering without a mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the wheels, by the end of 2024. Work on the development of this system is still ongoing.
Even when the Toyota bZ4X and Lexus RZ were coming to the market, automakers promised to offer them with so-called drive-by-wire steering – without the physical connection of the steering wheel to the front wheels, so-called drive by wire. They are not on the menu yet, but that should change by the end of next year.
The system is called “One Motion Grip” because it is not necessary to feel the steering wheel between stops. You can still hold it in the “three quarters to three” position – thanks to its stick-like design, it’s not much else – and still maneuver the car comfortably.
Well, in theory. Toyota, which is the luxury arm of Lexus, continues to develop the system and make some pretty major changes to it. First of all, it is an increase in the turning angle of the steering wheel from 150° to 200°, thanks to which, according to the car company, the driving experience is more familiar to people who are used to classic steering with several turns of the steering wheel between stops.
European rules previously required a physical connection between the steering wheel and the wheels for safety reasons; therefore, when Infiniti came out with the steering-by-wire system years ago, cars equipped with it had a classic steering stick as an emergency. Today, however, the rules have been updated and there is no such requirement in them. But they prohibit remote updates of the steer-by-wire system, although technologically such a possibility exists.
And why would anyone bother to develop such a system? It opens up new possibilities in interior design. “We want the interior to be as open as possible,” said Simon Humphries, chief designer of Lexus. “Use steering by wire and you have less mechanical parts to hide. It gives more freedom,” he added.
According to the British magazine Autocar, the use of this system is also planned in the next generation of Toyota and Lexus electric cars, which are to start coming to the market after 2026. The LF-ZL and LF-ZC models at the Japan Mobility Show are their harbingers.
Toyota is also said to be developing the next stage in the steer-by-wire systems, which would also add replacement gas and brake pedals to the steering wheel. Here, the automaker is still in the initial stages of development and there is no estimate when something like this could go into series production. However, the goal is to offer “mobility for all” – to make driving easier for people who cannot use classic pedals.