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Advancements in steering technology quicken journey towards automated driving

As the industry marches towards vehicle automation, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and suppliers will continue to invest in steering innovations for both manually-driven and automated vehicles.

The focus, however, is more skewed towards teaching the vehicle to drive like a human driver, which places increased importance on being able to steer in a near-human manner.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Strategic Analysis of Key Focus Areas for Steering Technology Development, finds that steer-by-wire is expected to penetrate a wider range of premium vehicles in the near future, although its success hinges on how OEMs tackle the loss-of-steering-assist scenario. At the same time, the sport utility vehicle (SUV), multi-purpose vehicle (MPV), and pickup segments will crossover to electric power steering (EPS) systems.

“EPS fitment rates in developed regions such as North America and Europe are high, and consumers are continuing to demand innovative technologies,” explains Frost & Sullivan Automotive and Transportation Research Analyst Manish M. Menon. “As a result, advanced EPS functions such as lane keeping assist and crosswind compensation will make inroads into these markets.”

Meanwhile, emerging markets are looking for the same features at a lower cost, as customers find EPS expensive compared to competing technologies such as hydraulic or electro-hydraulic power steering. These regions offer vast scope forlow-cost column EPS since consumers are willing to compromise on certain characteristics such as noise, vibration and harshness for price.

Heavy duty EPS is another segment with tremendous untapped potential. Most commercial vehicles are still using the hydraulic or the electro-hydraulic system since traditional EPS has been unable to breach the 15 kilonewton (kN) barrier. Though the Ford F150 and Ram 1500 have deployed EPS, manufacturers must invest further to enable large-scale adoption in heavy vehicles.

“In addition, OEMs with a clear and practical strategy for loss-of-assist mitigation are more likely to be successful in developing steering systems that are tuned towards automated driving,” concludes Menon. “While this overall focus to develop state-of-the-art, driver-out-of-the-loop steering for all vehicle segments will gather pace, innovations to upgrade the steering feel of manually driven vehicles will also progress steadily.”