The road to the autonomous driving future is certainly not going to be easy. Some car makers are even starting to doubt we’ll ever get completely self-driving cars. Level 5 autonomous driving models will basically no longer need a steering wheel. They will be capable of taking us everywhere without any kind of help from the human occupants. But until we get there, Level 4 cars might be more plausible.

That’s something every car maker worth its parts is working on right now, BMW included. When it comes to the Bavarians, one big step in this direction is supposed to come from the launch of the BMW iNext in just over 12 months from now. Even so, as technology-laden as it may be, the iNext will initially only feature Level 3 autonomous driving.

Level 4 autonomous driving means the car will basically drive itself 90 percent of the time, but it will still have a steering wheel of sorts inside so that human occupants can take over in case the need arises. Even so, since the ‘steering wheel’ will not be necessary most of the time, the interior of the cars will most like have it hidden away. That could lead to innovative ways of creating devices to steer the car, that don’t necessarily resemble a wheel.

That’s what was seemingly discovered recently by the people over at i4Talk. BMW apparently filed for a patent on a sort of joystick that would allow you to control a car. We can obviously spot a gear selector as well as a signal stalk and a sort of speed adjustment button. The German description says operating the device will be done using the grip and it seems like both sticks will be needed.

And while operating the car using these joysticks might be wildly different from what we know now, you need to realize that these devices are meant to be used sporadically and intuitively. Therefore, they must be as straightforward as possible, allowing anyone to avoid a potentially dangerous situation. Only time will tell what cars will actually get this sort of tech and how it’s going to be implemented.