Steering wheels about to get a lot more high-tech in Fords

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Ford Adaptive Steering Components

Ford’s Adaptive Steering components include microchips and an electronic motor to be housed within the central steering wheel housing to provide variable steering assist at the steering wheel itself rather than at the power steering pump. This allows the system to reduce or increase the number of turns needed to move the wheel from lock to lock, depending on vehicle speed, according to Ford. (Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company)

No longer will the steering wheel’s innards be the home of just your air bag and horn button. Ford says it will be launching an advanced steering technology that will see microchips and electronic motors placed within the steering wheel’s central housing.

I fully realize there’s a ton of electronic stuff on the peripheral spokes of many steering wheels today, before anybody says it. But those are not connected to the hub of the steering wheel the way Ford’s newest steering wheel tech is.

A press release from Ford said the steering technology will make its vehicles easier to maneuver at low speeds or in tight spaces, while at higher speeds, the steering technology will make vehicles more fun to drive.

Ford Global Product Development Group Vice President Raj Nair said, “First and foremost, all Ford Motor Company products have to offer a great driving experience. This new steering technology can make any vehicle easier to maneuver and more fun to drive.

Ford’s press release explained that the new steering technology works, in essence, by changing the steering ratio — the number of turns, lock-to-lock, — at the wheel itself. So at low speeds, where Ford probably aims to make vehicles easier to park by boosting power assistance, the steering technology would require less turns of the wheel to reach full lock in either direction. Conversely, at speed, the new steering technology would likely require slightly more effort, boosting feedback and positive on-center feel. Ford calls the system Adaptive Steering, and said the steering ratio changes constantly in concert with vehicle speed variations in order to offer the best steering response for a given situation.

Here’s Ford’s slightly more detailed explanation of how it all works:

Ford’s system uses a precision-controlled actuator placed inside the steering wheel, and requires no change to a vehicle’s traditional steering system. The actuator – an electric motor and gearing system – can essentially add to or subtract from a driver’s steering inputs. The result is a better driving experience at all speeds, regardless of vehicle size or class.

Ford says the new steering technology behind Adaptive Steering was co-developed with supplier Takata and will start being installed in select vehicles next year.

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