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Ford develops new steering technology

Adaptive steering system expected to be in production within 12 months

Published: June 5, 2014, 3:00 AM

Ford Adaptive Steering System

Ford has revealed plans to introduce a new Adaptive Steering system that automatically varies steering ratio with vehicle speed. It is said to enhance maneuverability at low speeds and in tight spaces, while making a vehicle more agile and fun to drive at higher speeds.

Adaptive Steering changes the ratio between the amount the driver turns the steering wheel and how much the front wheels turn.

Typically, in most vehicles, that ratio is fixed – although premium brands including Audi, BMW and Lexus have offered their own variations on variable steering ratios and some mechanical variability, based on differing gear tooth shapes rack and pinion steering gears, is not uncommon.

With Ford’s new Adaptive Steering system, the steering ratio continually changes with vehicle speed.

At lower speeds, such as when pulling into a parking space or maneuvering in tight quarters, the new system makes the vehicle easier to turn by dialling more steering into the road wheel, requiring less turning of the steering wheel, as illustrated in a Ford video.

At highway speeds, the system slows down the steering response, enabling the vehicle to react more smoothly and precisely and helping the driver feel more comfortable.

Housed entirely within the steering wheel, Ford’s system uses a precision-controlled 'actuator' that can add to or subtract from a driver’s steering inputs, based on vehicle speed. In effect, it is an electric motor and gear system that acts as an intermediary betwen the steering wheel and steering column.

The Adaptive Steering mechanism requires no change to a vehicle’s traditional steering system and can be adapted to vehicles of all types and sizes, Ford says. The system was developed for production by Ford in collaboration with Takata, a global supplier of automotive steering and safety systems.

Adaptive Steering will be available on select Ford vehicles beginning next year.