The Mercedes-Benz Unimog Has the Most Incredible Trick Steering Wheel
What other truck can swap from left-hand-drive to right-hand-drive in 30 seconds?
The Mercedes-Benz Unimog is a go-to for adventurers worldwide, overlanding from one continent to the next with the ability to ford waterways and even climb volcanoes. Mercedes knows its customers are bound to roam and, as such, their Unimogs have to adapt to various conditions, both on- and off-road. That means trick features, including one that allows the vehicle to switch from left-hand-drive to right-hand-drive in a cinch.
It's called Variopilot, and it's unlike pretty much everything else on the market today. It can be found on the modern Unimog U 530, which is specially made as an implement carrier for foreign markets. Its panoramic cab provides surrounding views of the environment, and it's further complemented by the ability to switch the steering wheel from side to side.
In reality, it's far from being new tech; we've just never really got it in the United States. What's more, the feature's operation is puzzling as relatively few people outside the company actually know how it works. We've reached out to Daimler for a more precise answer, though we believe the steering column uses electronic linkages with quick disconnects. If that's the case, then the steering wheel turns freely when not locked into position.
You can see videos of Variopilot in action here as well as the video embedded below:
Apparently, it takes just 30 seconds for the steering wheel to swap sides.
This would come in handy when crossing borders where countries may drive on the left side of the road in one instance and on the right in the next. It seems like most applications of the Unimog that receive Variopilot are agricultural, ones that are often used as tractors in Europe and the like. Still, there are some RV builds that sport the equipment.
Seemingly, Mercedes could bring this tech to more road-going vehicles, so long as it meets government regulations.
Correction [May 10, 2020, at 6:49 p.m. EST]: This article formerly stated the Variopilot system could not use steer-by-wire technology due to U.S. regulations. That is incorrect, as the equipment is in fact legal. The relevant text has been updated.
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