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Tesla Motors

Steering-wheel-mounted switch and thumb-wheel modules allow the driver to operate critical functions without releasing the wheel. The modules communicate with the vehicle via a LIN-Bus link.

Streamlined steering wheel controls for Tesla Motors

In the automotive manufacturing industry, it’s common practice to license parts, components, and controls from other companies. When it was a new company, Tesla Motors did the same with its steering column and the control switches in the steering wheel’s center. These switches control in-cabin functions like the horn, the audio system with its radio, media playback and volume controls. The system also controls Bluetooth phone connections, controls, volume and dialing access. Drivers use the control panel and switches to manipulate the onboard computer user interface with its context-sensitive controls, scrolling capabilities, and soft keys. Using this system, drivers can set the cabin temperature or find the nearest coffee shop without lifting their hands off the wheel.

Tesla challenged McGilvra Engineering to create a proprietary circuit board that would improve user controls and eliminates costly licensing fees. McGilvra Engineering’s final result was a circuit board that that duplicated the existing functionality in a more streamlined and modern design. Using the latest electrical engineering best practices, McGilvra Engineering reduced the number of circuit panels from three to just two. They eliminated the steering wheel’s center circuit panel and improved the whole system’s reliability while reducing manufacturing costs. McGilvra’s system has a two-way LIN-BUS that processes the eight user-controlled signals and a daylight sensor that turns on an LED light to illuminate the controls when night falls. The new control system uses serial links for a more elegant design and the whole thing was reverse-engineered, so it fits seamlessly into the car’s existing computer software, systems, and controls. That’s the hallmark of great electrical engineering design from McGilvra Engineering: a product that has increased functionality, a lighter design, a cost improvement and flawless integration into existing systems.

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