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October 2020 Newsletter

Ford bringing adaptive steering to the masses

Within the next year, Ford will offer a brand-new adaptive steering system (unimaginatively dubbed “Ford Adaptive Steering”), and this week, the automaker invited us out to its proving grounds in Dearborn, MI to get a taste for how its new setup works. In function, Ford’s system doesn’t greatly differ from the majority of other adaptive steering units already on the market from companies like Audi or BMW, but consider this: Ford will be the first non-luxury automaker to offer this technology, and uniquely, the whole system fits inside the car’s steering wheel.

Ford’s engineers have worked hard to create a system that can be tacked on to the company’s full lineup of cars, trucks and utility vehicles, and says that the adaptive steering will be uniquely tuned for each specific vehicle. The automaker will not confirm exactly which vehicle will launch with this technology, but for the purpose of our preview, we tested the technology in a 2014 Fusion – a vehicle with already-good behind-the-wheel feel, one that the company says best demonstrates its current steering efforts.

To be clear, this new adaptive technology is something that adds on to the existing steering system (electric, hydraulic, etc.) used in a vehicle. While electric systems like Ford’s EPAS controls the torque being sent to the wheel – and being felt by the driver’s hands – adaptive steering builds onto this technology by actually altering steering ratio and effort. This isn’t a by-wire system like the one in the Infiniti Q50, and it’s something that Ford could gradually expand across its entire lineup, from cars as small as the Fiesta to trucks as large as the Super Duty.

All the hardware fits right into the steering wheel, only adding about a pound or two to the car’s overall weight.

It’s an incredibly compact unit, too – as we said, all the hardware fits right into the steering wheel, only adding about a pound or two to the car’s overall weight. It’s a packaging masterstroke that should help make it easy to adapt it to all manner of the Blue Oval’s vehicles without any significant engineering hurdles. How does it actually work? There’s an actuator – an electric motor mated to a gearing system – housed inside the steering wheel. The actuator can add to or subtract from steering inputs, meaning adaptive steering actually adjusts the angle of the front wheels, it doesn’t only vary the effort, or steering weight, that the driver feels.

Adaptive steering aids with both low– and high-speed maneuverability. At parking-lot speeds, you don’t have to turn the wheel as much to execute turning into a tight spot, for instance, nor do you expend as much effort to do so. In fact, we sampled a Fusion that when stopped and in Park, only required one full turn of the wheel in either direction to explore its lock-to-lock range.

At higher speeds of about 50 mph, the system proved less noticeable, yet it still allowed for things like quicker inputs to the wheels and lane changes. The same could be said when we hit 80 mph on Ford’s straightaway – changing lanes felt very similar with the adaptive steering both on and off, but with it activated, there was noticeably better overall feedback and stability, and the same could be said during more substantial turns. That vagueness that plagues many electric power steering systems – particularly just off-center – was gone with this adaptive unit.

Source: [AutoBlog.com]


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