Steering and driveline supplier Nexteer Automotive this year unveiled a suite of advanced technologies for different levels of autonomous driving. Key to the package is steer-by-wire. Jeff Zuraski, 56, executive director of r&d for the Auburn Hills, Mich., company, spoke with News Editor Lindsay Chappell about the outlook for steer-by-wire.
Q: Nexteer is pitching a suite of technology with steer-by-wire at its core. What does it offer?
A: There's a lot of opportunity to use steer-by-wire as a platform and add other things onto it. That, combined with all the work going on with autonomous driving, makes for fertile ground for a lot of innovation.
What is the attraction?
Steer-by-wire opens up a new level of freedom and allows other features related to different driving modes and driver experiences.
What features will Nexteer tie to steering?
Features like lane-keeping or lane-centering and cameras on the car that are identifying lane boundaries, providing signals that keep the car centered. It could accept an external signal that can steer the car.
How will the industry get to steer-by-wire?
Nexteer makes something like 10 million steering systems a year now. The majority of them are electric power steering, which gives you the ability to do steer-by-wire. It could be a scenario where you decouple the mechanical connection between the hand wheel from the road wheel, to open up more freedom. Or it could be a car that doesn't have a mechanical link 100 percent of the time. Or another definition could be an ordinary electric power that can accept commands from other subsystems to steer in an automatic way.
How will the technology ultimately roll out to large-scale use?
The automated aspects of it will start in very predictable environments — roads that are highly understood under good weather conditions. Then it will expand out to uncertain roadways. Maybe when you're on vacation and off the grid in an area that's not thoroughly mapped. Or imagine fleets of vehicles that simply get people from point A to point B that are shared by hundreds of people every day. Or commuters who drive a long distance every day and don't want to focus on steering.