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Ford adopts adaptive steering

Good steer: Ford's new adaptive steering system is housed entirely within the steering wheel.

New adaptive steering technology will make future Fords easier to maneuver

30 May 2014

Ford Motor Company will release a new form of adaptive steering in 2015 that varies the ratio in line with road speed, and it’s all done with electronics mounted in the steering wheel hub.

The new adaptive system is expected to appear on US models in 2015, but the updated versions of the locally-built Falcon and Territory models were locked in before the new system was perfected.

Developed in conjunction with Japanese components supplier Takata Corporation, the new steering system reduces the amount of wheel twirling a driver has to do at slow speeds and when parking.

At road speeds, the ratio returns to a more normal ratio.

While the BMW Servotronic and Audi Dynamic Steering systems achieve similar results, the Ford system sits at the top of the steering column and requires no changes to the steering mechanism behind the dashboard or between the front wheels.

In contrast, earlier variable rate systems achieved lower steering effort when parking by incorporating the change in ratio on the actual steering rack, with the space between the teeth becoming greater as the rack moves closer to the ends of the rack.

This rack-based variable system was developed by Australian engineer Arthur Bishop, who also won hundreds of patents for his work on power steering systems.

Ford claims the new adaptive system will not only improve slow-speed handling inside the cabin but also deliver better feel through the steering at all speeds.

It is not clear yet whether this will be enough to counter the numbing effect of electronic power steering on steering feel.

The adaptive system comprises an electric motor and gear system housed in the steering wheel hub. The system adds or subtracts from the driver’s input to deliver more comfortable handling for the driver.

The successful collaboration between Ford and Takata was not derailed by a 2013 Department of Justice decision to fine Takata $US71.3 million ($A76.5 million) for price-fixing in the supply of airbags. Ford was one of the buyers affected.

Back in 2010, Ford welcomed Takata into its Aligned Business Framework, which brings the company into closer long-term relationships with its suppliers.

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