Soon your car’s steering wheel will no longer be connected to the wheels

Soon your car’s steering wheel will no longer be connected to the wheels

Basically, nothing has changed since the birth of the automobile: cars have been steered for more than a century with a steering wheel (or handlebars) connected to the wheels via a metal column. But a new revolution will change the game. The marketing of systems fully electronic steering, where the steering wheel no longer has a physical link with the wheels, is imminent. The benefits are many. The most obvious concerns the disappearance of the steering column, which frees up space on board to reorganize the cabin. This also makes it possible to dispense with a metallic element, and therefore to save weight. Above all, this leaves much greater adjustment latitude than a traditional system, while isolating the steering wheel from road vibrations.

Conventional steering assistance, whether electric or hydraulic, does nothing more than reduce the effort required to turn the steering wheel, variably depending on the speed. This greatly facilitates the task in town, but there remains a physical limit: the gear ratio between the pinion and the rack is fixed. And this one is based on a compromise. At low speed, we would like the most direct and most assisted steering possible, so as not to have to “mill” with the steering wheel, for example during a parallel maneuver. On the highway, on the contrary, we prefer a significant reduction, so that the small imperceptible movements of the hands do not result in deviations from the trajectory.

There are already tricks to vary the gear ratio

To vary the gear ratio angle depending on the driving situation, there are already several solutions. The simplest is a variable pitch rack. This type of component, used in particular by Volkswagen on its Golf GTI, consists of increasingly tight teeth on the rack as the steering wheel is turned. In short, the response is less lively around the midpoint, on the low steering angles used at high speed. On the contrary, as you turn the steering wheel, the effect is amplified. This gives a feeling of increased responsiveness in tight turns.

At the house of Ford, it’s a worm gear electric motor system mounted on the steering wheel hub which is offered on some high-end models, such as the Edge, S-Max and Galaxy. At low speed, this comes into play at the same time as the driver turns the steering wheel, to amplify the steering. Which amounts in this precise case to reducing the angle of reduction perceived.

BMW Active Steering


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