Innovation in steering systems for light duty vehicles: Future benefits of electric power steering
Future benefits of electric power steering
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There are several additional functions under development which will take advantage of electric power steering to provide extra safety benefits to the driver. With the amount of data available from sensors and cameras installed on the vehicle, the steering control unit will be able to improve assistance in a variety of conditions, such as over/understeer compensation, crosswind compensation, and rollover prevention.
An evasive manoeuvre function will soon be developed whereby an evasive trajectory can be calculated in the event of an imminent collision, based on camera and radar information coupled with conventional driving dynamic sensors. Further steering assistance can also be implemented to aid the driver if they have already begun to take evasive action. Enhanced lane assist systems should also be possible in the near future. Based on data from cameras and radars, the time before the vehicle leaves the lane can be calculated in the steering control unit using parameters such as lane camber, the distance to lane markings, and the position in the lane. This would allow a tiered warning system to be introduced to warn the driver as the car gets closer and closer to veering out of lane. Lane assistance systems will also be linked to navigation systems, providing even more data for electric power steering to act upon.
There is also development in the commercial sector, with systems which will be able to assist with steering and reversing when towing a trailer. Using sensors to calculate the articulation angle, the driver would be able to specify the target articulation angle via a touch screen, allowing the vehicle to automatically adjust the necessary wheel steering angle for safe reversing.
The electric power steering sector is set for substantial growth in the next decade, and it is easy to see why. Hydraulic power steering has been a proven and beneficial technology for OEM’s, but electric systems offer a far greater range of functionality and connectivity to other systems within the vehicle. The other main driver, as with almost every area of research and development in the automotive industry, is the quest for greater fuel efficiency.
Although the early versions of electric power steering systems proved to be unnatural in the way they felt to drivers, newer systems are proving to be more flexible, and offer greater possibilities than hydraulic systems. The advance in technology and software capability allows engineers to develop systems which provide torque feedback to the steering wheel to give the driver the feeling of actually controlling and steering the wheels. This is of utmost importance as the steering wheel is the driver’s best interface with the surface of the road.
The progression of electric power steering is also essential to advanced drive assistance systems and eventually autonomous driving. More data than ever is available from an array of sensors, cameras, radars and navigation systems, and to take full advantage of these more complex steering systems are certain to be developed.
This is the conclusion to our three part series on innovation in steering systems by Colin Pawsey.