Ford steering system needs fewer turns

Feature to be available on 1st vehicle next spring

Ford Adaptive Steering was shown on the Edge Concept at the 2013 L.A. auto show.

DETROIT -- A steering system that makes it easier for drivers to maneuver in parking lots will be offered next spring on a Ford vehicle, likely the next-generation Edge crossover.

Now, to back into a parking space a driver needs to turn the steering wheel of a typical vehicle as many as three revolutions. With Ford's new steering system, the same maneuver might need as few as two revolutions.

Ford Adaptive Steering, developed with Japanese supplier Takata Corp., was shown to journalists last month at a media event here. Ford declined to say on what vehicles the system will appear. But the system was shown on the Edge Concept in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The production version of the next-generation Edge is due next spring.

Most vehicles have a long metal shaft that connects the steering wheel to the rack and pinion between the front wheels. The rack and pinion is connected to the wheels, turning them left and right. Ford engineers, working with Takata, 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 revolutions of the steering wheel at low speeds.

The driver's effort to turn the wheel remains the same, even though fewer revolutions are needed.

At highway speeds, turning the vehicle with the new system also requires less movement of the steering wheel, but the change is subtle because quick turns at high speeds can be dangerous.

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.

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