New Ford steering system needs fewer turns

In Ford’s new steering system, the steering wheel activates an electric motor, which turns a gear on the steering shaft. The motor and gear turn the wheels with fewer rotations of the steering wheel.
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DETROIT -- Ford has a solution for drivers tired of cranking steering wheels to maneuver into tight parking spots.

Now, to back into a space a driver needs to turn the steering wheel of a typical vehicle up to three revolutions. With the new Ford system, it might need as few as two.

Ford Motor Co. plans to introduce the system in an unnamed vehicle within 12 months, the company said Wednesday at a media event here.

Most vehicles have a long metal shaft that connects the steering wheel to the rack and pinion between the two front wheels. The rack and pinion is connected to the wheels, turning them left and right. Ford engineers, working with Japanese supplier Takata Corp., changed part of that layout.

In Ford’s system, the steering wheel activates an electric motor, which turns a gear on the steering shaft. The motor and gear turn the wheels with fewer rotations of the steering wheel.

Moreover, the driver needs the same effort to turn the wheel, even though fewer turns are needed.

Many vehicles have steering assist, which uses an electric motor to reduce the effort needed to turn the steering wheel at low speeds. But these systems do not reduce the number of turns needed.

Ford officials have not named the vehicles that will be available with the adaptive steering. Vehicles with longer wheelbases benefit more from the system than small cars such as the Fiesta and Focus, said Jeremy Rawlings, an engineer working on the system.

Similar steering systems are available on some BMW, Lexus, Audi and Infiniti luxury vehicles, but they are packaged differently from Ford’s system.

You can reach Richard Truett at rtruett@crain.com.


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