Automotive

Ford to lighten the steering load with Adaptive Steering system

Ford's Adaptive Steering system alters the steering ratio based on vehicle speed
Ford's Adaptive Steering system alters the steering ratio based on vehicle speed
View 3 Images
Ford's Adaptive Steering system uses an actuator placed inside the steering wheel
1/3
Ford's Adaptive Steering system uses an actuator placed inside the steering wheel
Ford's Adaptive Steering system requires no change to a vehicle's traditional steering system
2/3
Ford's Adaptive Steering system requires no change to a vehicle's traditional steering system
Ford's Adaptive Steering system alters the steering ratio based on vehicle speed
3/3
Ford's Adaptive Steering system alters the steering ratio based on vehicle speed

While power steering has made it possible to drive around without giving yourself an exhausting upper body workout, the steering ratio of most vehicles – that is, the number of turns of the steering wheel required to turn the front wheels a certain amount – is fixed. Ford is shaking things up for non-luxury car buyers with its new Adaptive Steering system that will be available on select models from next year.

As the name suggests, adaptive steering system adjust the steering ratio of a vehicle to adapt to changing conditions – in this case, the speed of the vehicle. At low speeds, the system turns the front wheels a greater distance for the same amount of rotation of the steering wheel – or, if you like, less turning of the steering wheel is required for the same amount of turning of the front wheels. Ford says this makes the car more agile and easier to turn when, for example, maneuvering into a tight parking space.

When traveling at highway speeds, the system doesn't go in the other direction and make it so the driver needs to turn the steering wheel further to achieve the same result as traditional steering systems. Rather the steering ratio is gradually reduced the faster the vehicle goes, so that less turning of the steering wheel is still required, but as speed increases its effects will be less and less noticeable compared to traditional steering.

The system, which was developed by Ford in collaboration with automotive steering and safety systems supplier Takata, uses an actuator comprising an electric motor and gearing system that is placed inside the steering wheel. As it requires no change to a vehicle's traditional steering system, it can be fitted to Ford's full line of cars, utility vehicles and trucks.

Although similar systems are already available on some luxury models from other automakers, Ford looks set to be the first to bring the technology to the average consumer, with plans to make it available on select vehicles in 2015.

The effect of the system can be seen in following video.

Source: Ford

Ford Adaptive Steering Technology

14 comments
The Skud
So, how is it better than the present system of altering steering boost (or effort if you like) as speeds change? There a lot of cars on the road now that use more boost - electric or hydraulic - at slow parking garage speeds and reduce it speeding up on the highway. Most drivers prefer straight roads, not twisty bits with more lock needed.
Synchro
@TheSkud it's different because it's altering steering ratio, not just the amount of assistance. This sounds extremely similar to the variable geometry and electrically assisted (as opposed to hydraulic on most cars) steering that Honda introduced in the S2000 V in 2000: http://world.honda.com/news/2000/4000707.html It has only 1.4 turns lock-to-lock, which is less than half what most cars use.
Mel Tisdale
How do they manage to alter the ratio smoothly while maintaining a direct connection between the steering wheel and drive wheels when it fails, which it will because it can? It cannot be done via a variable length steering arm because it sits in the steering wheel and a CVT type connection would most likely not be fail safe, so that's out of the question, I assume. You won't get me driving one of these until I know how it works. Pity that information isn't in the article. A paragraph detailing the mechanism, with diagrams to suit, would have been a very valuable inclusion.
Ralph Oldman
Synchro, It does not seem to be a "fly-by-wire" type system. it seems to be or behave like a continuously variable transmission would. It the system fails, it would still always be in a gear. I would like it but would like to have some control on the intensity of the help. My Hyundai has some sort of control boost on the steering but its pretty much useless for anything as it does not even seem based on speed. The car seemed like a great value but you always get what you pay for. In my case is a boring car with poorly implemented technology.
DiscoMoose
My 1 Series BMW had exactly this 3 years ago. Electrically actuated change in steering ratio based on speed. So at slower speeds fewer turns were required lock to lock. At motorway speeds not only did the streering assistance reduce (more driver effort required) AND the steering ratio changed to increase stability.
bergamot69
@The Skud, I'm guessing that when you say 'most drivers prefer straight roads' you are probably referring to Americans- after all, traditionally, the average American car has been set up to give a soft, wallowy ride, and over-light steering- which does not make for a pleasant experience on the twisties. Keener drivers, especially Europeans, relish twisty roads when time and traffic flow allows- and buy cars with taughter suspension and better steering with which to properly enjoy them. Yes, we do have fast straighter motorways, but they tend to be used for convenience when time is of the essence rather than for pleasure. Anything car makers can do to improve steering without losing 'feel' is fine by me. I deliver and collect cars for a living and had to drive a Toyota Avensis through the mountains and valleys of Wales today- a normally pleasurable activity marred by that car's utterly flacid steering.
hdm
the key seems to be for 'non-luxury' users. not that my old A4 was luxurious (b7 model), but it sure did turn the wheel sweet at low speeds...and tightened up nicely no the track. still never buying Ford anything...except maybe 1987 or older F150 wtih the 300ci straight six... and knowing many working at Ford...i'd double down on that statement.
Slowburn
I don't want it. @ The Skud What do you base your claim of most drivers.
Tuppe
"Active steering describes a type of power electric variable gear ratio power steering technology introduced by BMW in 2003 first appearing on the redesigned 5-series which varies the degree that the wheels turn in response to the steering wheel." BMW has had this for over 10 years. My 2006 e60 has this. It's now a 15-20k$ car, so it's not more expensive than these new Fords. I'm amazed how BMW inventes all the stuff 10 years ahead of time, but never makes a fuzz about it. These cheap automakers come late and market the BMW engineered stuff as "new and groundbraking". Selling a copycat product cheaper isn't anything new, it's actually how the industry works. Of course it's cheaper when you just copy and paste BMW engineering to your own cheapo car.
Stephen N Russell
Love to see on a Mustang model, & custom Tang types aside std models, awesome.