Automotive

Active wheel alignment system promises huge handling and performance gains

Active wheel alignment system ...
By electronically adjusting camber, toe and caster, the Doftek active wheel alignment system (AWAS) system is claimed to improve handling performance by at least 15% while reducing rolling resistance by 10% and tire wear by 10%
By electronically adjusting camber, toe and caster, the Doftek active wheel alignment system (AWAS) system is claimed to improve handling performance by at least 15% while reducing rolling resistance by 10% and tire wear by 10%
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The DOFTEK AWAS only adds up to about 1 kg of weight per wheel
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The DOFTEK AWAS only adds up to about 1 kg of weight per wheel
By electronically adjusting camber, toe and caster, the Doftek active wheel alignment system (AWAS) system is claimed to improve handling performance by at least 15% while reducing rolling resistance by 10% and tire wear by 10%
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By electronically adjusting camber, toe and caster, the Doftek active wheel alignment system (AWAS) system is claimed to improve handling performance by at least 15% while reducing rolling resistance by 10% and tire wear by 10%
The DOFTEK system is controlled by an ECU that connects to the vehicle’s main ECU and can be controlled by the user or automatically adjust on the fly
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The DOFTEK system is controlled by an ECU that connects to the vehicle’s main ECU and can be controlled by the user or automatically adjust on the fly
In the first-generation version, each wheel’s camber and caster were altered at the same angle but Rogers says that developments now underway can independently adjust the angle of the wheels so the inner wheel
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In the first-generation version, each wheel’s camber and caster were altered at the same angle but Rogers says that developments now underway can independently adjust the angle of the wheels so the inner wheel
The Doftek AWAS was developed by husband and wife team Geoff and Priscilla Rogers and business partner Dr Paul Dowie
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The Doftek AWAS was developed by husband and wife team Geoff and Priscilla Rogers and business partner Dr Paul Dowie
"The contact patch on the road is the most important part of a vehicle’s handling,” says Doftek inventor and co-founder Geoff Rogers
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"The contact patch on the road is the most important part of a vehicle’s handling,” says Doftek inventor and co-founder Geoff Rogers
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Change the angle of each car’s wheel on the move to get better fuel economy or improve handling? If it sounds like the result of inebriated banter around a barbecue too late one night, you’d be sober to learn it’s a new Australian development that is ready to go global.

Major improvements in handling and tire wear while reducing rolling resistance are some of the claims by the developer of a world-first active wheel alignment system that is now being tested as a production component by selected car and truck makers.

In the first-generation version, each wheel’s camber and caster were altered at the same angle but Rogers says that developments now underway can independently adjust the angle of the wheels so the inner wheel
In the first-generation version, each wheel’s camber and caster were altered at the same angle but Rogers says that developments now underway can independently adjust the angle of the wheels so the inner wheel

The Australian designed and developed Doftek active wheel alignment system (AWAS) is now poised to be licensed to vehicle manufacturers and may also be offered it as an aftermarket product, particularly to motorsport.

The initial targets for AWAS are luxury and performance vehicles, followed by electric vehicles (as a means of extending the battery range) and autonomous cars.

“Cars today are so sophisticated that they have electronic control for everything, except the most important thing that controls contact with the road - wheel alignment,” says Doftek inventor and co-founder Geoff Rogers. "The contact patch on the road is the most important part of a vehicle’s handling.”

The Doftek AWAS was developed by husband and wife team Geoff and Priscilla Rogers and business partner Dr Paul Dowie. It works by altering the angle of a car’s wheel while on the move. By electronically adjusting camber, toe and caster, it claims it can improve handling performance by at least 15 per cent – and a second version of up to 29 per cent – while reducing rolling resistance by 10 per cent and tire wear by 10 per cent.

It can be fitted to the front – or all – wheels of a passenger vehicle, to the wheels of a prime mover truck, and to the truck’s trailer wheels.

Rogers says an example of the benefits of the AWAS is for highway driving where the camber can be adjusted to reduce rolling resistance and so save on fuel. It also reduces tire wear and lowers noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) for a more comfortable ride. When cornering, where lateral grip is important, the adjustments to negative camber (the splayed front wheel look reflected by track cars) can be made while moving.

The Doftek AWAS was developed by husband and wife team Geoff and Priscilla Rogers and business partner Dr Paul Dowie
The Doftek AWAS was developed by husband and wife team Geoff and Priscilla Rogers and business partner Dr Paul Dowie

In the first-generation version, each wheel’s camber and caster were altered at the same angle but Rogers says that developments now underway can independently adjust the angle of the wheels so the inner wheel, for example, can be made to lean more for better grip.

“Tire temperatures are very important and by adjusting the angle of the wheel we can reduce the temperature by more than 10 per cent,” Rogers says. “With even tire temperatures, we can reduce wear and eradicate uneven tire wear.”

The benefits are tires that last longer and ultimately, lessening the tires that end up as waste.

For trucks and trailers, adjusting the wheels can improve the turning circle, extend tire life and reduce emissions – all vital benefits to the transport industry. Rogers says some truck manufacturers were now looking at his product because of these advantages, specifically at a time when emissions and fuel use are becoming stringently regulated.

The Doftek AWAS is also seen as being important to tire makers who may be able to redesign tread patterns or change the composition of the tire to lighter, less heat-sensitive materials.

Doftek started two years ago and produced the first version that has on-the-fly adjustment of wheel alignment via a three-mode selector switch. The switch offers Normal, Sport and Sport+ modes with the corresponding 0 degree, -1.5 degree and -3 degree camber to suit different driving conditions.

The company says this version has been extensively developed and tested and provided at least a 15 per cent increase in handling performance; 10 per cent reduction in rolling resistance; and 10 per cent reduction in peak tire temperatures.

With financial support from the Australian Government’s Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) initiative, the company is developing a second version of its system which will offer next-generation dynamic (semi-active) and adaptive (real-time) capabilities. Rogers says the second-generation system will also achieve an improvement of up to 29 per cent in handling performance observed during initial testing with differential camber settings.

Doftek has an Audi TTRS and Mercedes-AMG GT S as its test cars. The Audi is fitted with the first version of the system and the AMG with the upgraded version. Rogers says the AMG can adjust the camber of each wheel, so that the right-hand side wheel can be -2.8 degrees and the left side can be -0.2 degrees to maximize grip when cornering.

The DOFTEK AWAS only adds up to about 1 kg of weight per wheel
The DOFTEK AWAS only adds up to about 1 kg of weight per wheel

In development is the ability for the car to do its own wheel alignment, based on factory parameters set into the Doftek ECU.

The AWAS concept isn’t new. Mr Rogers said some car manufacturers have been working on an AWAS since around 2005 but termed them expensive, heavy and unable to be incorporated into existing suspension layouts.

“This is the only one that adapts and controls the wheel in real time,” he says. “It’s fully compatible with existing suspension systems, including MacPherson struts, double wishbone, multi-link and with rear-wheel steer systems. It fits into existing vehicles and there are no other changes to the vehicle and wheel alignments can be carried out as normal.”

In the system, an electromechanical camber device replaces the OEM suspension mount, a similar device for toe changes is fitted to the tie rod, and the system is controlled by an ECU that connects to the vehicle’s main ECU and can be controlled by the user or automatically adjust on the fly.

Of particular interest is that the device, which only adds up to about 1 kg of weight per wheel, reduces rolling resistance and improves fuel economy and in the case of an electric vehicle, extends its range.

Rogers says that a 10 per cent reduction in rolling resistance was “a massive gain” for an EV.

“Our real-world testing demonstrates that this technology can provide next-generation performance gains to vehicle manufacturers. The funding and assistance provided by the AMGC has allowed us to accelerate our development and commercialization efforts into global markets, including Europe and Japan.”

Rogers says the pandemic had slowed discussions with offshore companies but these are ongoing, and he plans to have a prototype unit fitted to their test vehicles once business conditions improved. He believes this will position Doftek as a supplier for future vehicle releases.

Doftek’s project partners include On Point Engineering that contributes expertise through its years of Supercars Australia competition; Erntek to supply and commission electric motors; Flexicut Engineering to make custom parts; and 3D Systems to rapid prototype parts and contribute 3D printing knowledge.

Source: Doftek

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11 comments
yawood
That sounds very promising, especially as it can be retrofitted and only adds 1kg per wheel.
Bob Stuart
How do they quantify "handling?" "Up to" starts at zero. I'm sure that there are gains to be found, but numbers like those sound cherry-picked.
Worzel
Does this lock out the starter if it fails?
Mike Johnson
Neil: This is a wonderful article about in process optimization of some system. A great deal can be done here especially with heavy transport and EVs and autonomous.
Francis
Brilliant idea! Far too long have car owners suffered through expensive maintenance issues like worn tires and poor gas mileage. However, here in Canada snow, salt and cold plague us all though the deteriorating electronics to the aforementioned. if this product makes it to market, I wish it to be robust in construction!
666
Awesome, so proud to almost have been an engineer, but I’m still a massive revhead. The concept is brilliant. WTF didn’t anyone think of it before. The closest I can think of is the Porsche 928 which used rear wheel steering using suspension geometry and flexible mountings.
sidmehta
If it's running with a small contact patch and you slam the brakes in an emergency, how long does it take to react and give you a full contact patch? If you start skidding (or aquaplaning) before it reacts then it's not safe. So it needs an intelligent link with brake pedal sensors with fast reaction times to tilt the wheels back to a full contact patch. Sadly there is no talk of safety in this article, so we don't know.
Signguy
Did I miss the cost? It's got to be affordable compared to normal maintenance.
paul314
Can't wait for the first set of hacks. (Albeit this sounds like it only makes relatively small tweaks compared to what you can do mechanically with stupid suspension changes.)
Bruce H. Anderson
This reminds me of 4-wheel steering, which made it way into automobiles and trucks 30 years ago and are remembered as "Too expensive, insufficiently practical, but totally wonderful." It will be interesting to see how this plays out.