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Ford to lighten the steering load with Adaptive Steering system

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June 5, 2014

Ford's Adaptive Steering system alters the steering ratio based on vehicle speed

Ford's Adaptive Steering system alters the steering ratio based on vehicle speed

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While power steering has made it possible to drive around without giving yourself an exhausting upper body workout, the steering ratio of most vehicles – that is, the number of turns of the steering wheel required to turn the front wheels a certain amount – is fixed. Ford is shaking things up for non-luxury car buyers with its new Adaptive Steering system that will be available on select models from next year.

As the name suggests, adaptive steering system adjust the steering ratio of a vehicle to adapt to changing conditions – in this case, the speed of the vehicle. At low speeds, the system turns the front wheels a greater distance for the same amount of rotation of the steering wheel – or, if you like, less turning of the steering wheel is required for the same amount of turning of the front wheels. Ford says this makes the car more agile and easier to turn when, for example, maneuvering into a tight parking space.

When traveling at highway speeds, the system doesn't go in the other direction and make it so the driver needs to turn the steering wheel further to achieve the same result as traditional steering systems. Rather the steering ratio is gradually reduced the faster the vehicle goes, so that less turning of the steering wheel is still required, but as speed increases its effects will be less and less noticeable compared to traditional steering.

The system, which was developed by Ford in collaboration with automotive steering and safety systems supplier Takata, uses an actuator comprising an electric motor and gearing system that is placed inside the steering wheel. As it requires no change to a vehicle's traditional steering system, it can be fitted to Ford's full line of cars, utility vehicles and trucks.

Although similar systems are already available on some luxury models from other automakers, Ford looks set to be the first to bring the technology to the average consumer, with plans to make it available on select vehicles in 2015.

The effect of the system can be seen in following video.

Source: Ford

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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14 Comments

So, how is it better than the present system of altering steering boost (or effort if you like) as speeds change?

There a lot of cars on the road now that use more boost - electric or hydraulic - at slow parking garage speeds and reduce it speeding up on the highway.

Most drivers prefer straight roads, not twisty bits with more lock needed.

The Skud
5th June, 2014 @ 08:56 pm PDT

@TheSkud it's different because it's altering steering ratio, not just the amount of assistance. This sounds extremely similar to the variable geometry and electrically assisted (as opposed to hydraulic on most cars) steering that Honda introduced in the S2000 V in 2000: http://world.honda.com/news/2000/4000707.html

It has only 1.4 turns lock-to-lock, which is less than half what most cars use.

Synchro
6th June, 2014 @ 12:36 am PDT

How do they manage to alter the ratio smoothly while maintaining a direct connection between the steering wheel and drive wheels when it fails, which it will because it can? It cannot be done via a variable length steering arm because it sits in the steering wheel and a CVT type connection would most likely not be fail safe, so that's out of the question, I assume.

You won't get me driving one of these until I know how it works. Pity that information isn't in the article. A paragraph detailing the mechanism, with diagrams to suit, would have been a very valuable inclusion.

Mel Tisdale
6th June, 2014 @ 06:19 am PDT

Synchro, It does not seem to be a "fly-by-wire" type system. it seems to be or behave like a continuously variable transmission would. It the system fails, it would still always be in a gear.

I would like it but would like to have some control on the intensity of the help.

My Hyundai has some sort of control boost on the steering but its pretty much useless for anything as it does not even seem based on speed. The car seemed like a great value but you always get what you pay for. In my case is a boring car with poorly implemented technology.

Ralph Oldman
6th June, 2014 @ 07:41 am PDT

My 1 Series BMW had exactly this 3 years ago. Electrically actuated change in steering ratio based on speed. So at slower speeds fewer turns were required lock to lock. At motorway speeds not only did the streering assistance reduce (more driver effort required) AND the steering ratio changed to increase stability.

DiscoMoose
6th June, 2014 @ 08:24 am PDT

@The Skud,

I'm guessing that when you say 'most drivers prefer straight roads' you are probably referring to Americans- after all, traditionally, the average American car has been set up to give a soft, wallowy ride, and over-light steering- which does not make for a pleasant experience on the twisties.

Keener drivers, especially Europeans, relish twisty roads when time and traffic flow allows- and buy cars with taughter suspension and better steering with which to properly enjoy them. Yes, we do have fast straighter motorways, but they tend to be used for convenience when time is of the essence rather than for pleasure.

Anything car makers can do to improve steering without losing 'feel' is fine by me. I deliver and collect cars for a living and had to drive a Toyota Avensis through the mountains and valleys of Wales today- a normally pleasurable activity marred by that car's utterly flacid steering.

bergamot69
6th June, 2014 @ 09:41 am PDT

the key seems to be for 'non-luxury' users. not that my old A4 was luxurious (b7 model), but it sure did turn the wheel sweet at low speeds...and tightened up nicely no the track.

still never buying Ford anything...except maybe 1987 or older F150 wtih the 300ci straight six... and knowing many working at Ford...i'd double down on that statement.

hdm
6th June, 2014 @ 10:39 am PDT

I don't want it.

@ The Skud

What do you base your claim of most drivers.

Slowburn
6th June, 2014 @ 09:35 pm PDT

"Active steering describes a type of power electric variable gear ratio power steering technology introduced by BMW in 2003 first appearing on the redesigned 5-series which varies the degree that the wheels turn in response to the steering wheel."

BMW has had this for over 10 years. My 2006 e60 has this.

It's now a 15-20k$ car, so it's not more expensive than these new Fords.

I'm amazed how BMW inventes all the stuff 10 years ahead of time, but never makes a fuzz about it. These cheap automakers come late and market the BMW engineered stuff as "new and groundbraking".

Selling a copycat product cheaper isn't anything new, it's actually how the industry works. Of course it's cheaper when you just copy and paste BMW engineering to your own cheapo car.

Tuppe
7th June, 2014 @ 02:31 am PDT

Love to see on a Mustang model, & custom Tang types aside std models, awesome.

Stephen N Russell
7th June, 2014 @ 08:42 am PDT

@Ralph Oldman

"If the system fails, it would still always be in a gear."

Surely, that depends on how it fails. If it loses the tension/pressure between the CVT components, the link would be broken. If a CVT gearbox fails, it would be possible to coast to a stop. If this unit fails, apart from generating the most heartfelt rendition of WTF, it would leave the driver a steering-wheel that would be neither use nor ornament.

Mel Tisdale
7th June, 2014 @ 12:39 pm PDT

On reflection, if this system is safe, it might lend itself to replacing the steering-wheel with a handlebar. I know that it has been tried, but have no idea concerning how successful it was. Perhaps it might be worth trying again but this time using the modern electric power assisted steering and this variable ratio system. If nothing else, it might facilitate adaptation to cope with the needs of disabled drivers.

Mel Tisdale
7th June, 2014 @ 12:46 pm PDT

Why you're worrying if it could fail or not? It has been used already for a decade, so it's not going to fail any more than ABS brakes. Again, there's nothing new here.

Tuppe
8th June, 2014 @ 12:58 am PDT

@Tuppe

I spent 26 years in vehicle engineering and engineering management. I know that if something can fail, it will fail. I just want to know that it is fail safe and seeing as its my life, I will choose what to worry about when it comes to risking it, if you don't mind.

Incidentally, nuclear missile subs operate on a fail dangerous system. There is little comfort to be had from knowing that they have not failed thus far, though they have come pretty darned close on more than one occasion.

Mel Tisdale
9th June, 2014 @ 02:41 pm PDT
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