GM has filed a patent application for a new transformable infotainment system knob capable of changing its shape. The new GM patent application has been assigned patent application number US 11,890,932 B2 with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and was published on February 6th, 2024. The patent application was originally filed on November 3rd, 2021, and lists two Michigan-based engineers as the inventors, specifically Joseph F. Szczerba and Ki Hyun Ahn.
The patent application describes a transformable knob for use in a vehicle that can be transformed into a variety of different shapes. The transformable knob design incorporates an axle and body mounted to the axle that can rotate around the axis, as well as a face plate and periphery wall defining a cavity on the body. This periphery wall is able to flex relative to the axis, and to this end, there is a plurality of engagement arms inside the cavity capable of moving outwards, away from the axis. An actuator engages the arms to be arranged in multiple positions, flexing the periphery wall between multiple configurations, in effect transforming the shape of the knob.
As the patent points out, vehicle design is increasingly moving away from mechanical components in favor of digital components, in particular when it comes to infotainment interfaces. A broad variety of automobile functions that previously incorporated mechanical interfaces (knobs, switches, and buttons) are now moving to an electronic layout, in particular with touchscreens. Some of these system controls include the stereo, HVAC, and transmission settings.
While digital layouts have their benefits, they also have their drawbacks, in particular when it comes to drawing attention away from the road for the vehicle driver.
“The operator often must avert their attention from the road to the display to make a selection and/or confirm that the proper selection has been made,” the patent points out. “In doing so, the operator is increasing the chance of getting into an accident.”
This transformable knob design seeks to remedy this by changing the shape of the knob, providing a tactile feedback mechanism for the driver.