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Instead of pedals, throttle and braking functions are controlled by levers on the steering wheel. Picture: SUPPLIED
Instead of pedals, throttle and braking functions are controlled by levers on the steering wheel. Picture: SUPPLIED

Imagine driving a car without using pedals. Toyota has demonstrated Neo Steer, a new cockpit concept based on motorcycle handlebars which integrates the functions of the accelerator and brake pedals into the steering wheel.

While Toyota is not the first carmaker to explore the idea of driving using only hands, the Japanese company says it has made the concept feel seamless and natural.

The solution was originally developed for drivers who cannot use their legs, but the technology could have wider applications in the future, including autonomous vehicles where manual control would be the exception instead of the rule.

The roomy pedal-free floor space enables smooth entry and exit into the vehicle, while the steering wheel’s unusual rectangular shape provides an unrestricted driving position.

Toyota did not say when Neo Steer will go into production but hinted it may be just around the corner. Paving the way for the technology is the new steer-by-wire system to be used by Toyota and Lexus from next year, starting with the Lexus RZ SUV.

With steer-by-wire, the steering wheel is no longer mechanically connected to the wheels because the steering column is no longer needed. Sensors on the steering wheel send impulses to an electric motor that steers the wheels, which allows more steering precision as the system varies according to speed and road type. 

It also provides better driving comfort as the steering does not transmit bumps to the driver’s arms. 

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