An intelligent steering system that is said to be less expensive and easier to integrate than existing technology will enter series production next year.
Developed by engineers at Bosch in Stuttgart, the steering assistance system has been designed to help drivers perform the accurate steering adjustments required in critical situations where there is a risk of skidding.
It does this by increasing or reducing the support of the power steering – making it easier for the driver to execute the steering manoeuvre, according to the situation.
Bosch spokesman Stephan Kraus explained that the system is designed to be implemented on cars already equipped with both electromechanical power steering and the electronic stability programme (ESP), an intelligent braking system also developed by Bosch.
ESP, which has been in production vehicles since 1995, uses information gathered from an array of sensors to check whether the vehicle is going in its intended direction or whether it has lost control through excess speed, over-steer or under-steer. If this is the case ESP first reduces the speed and then applies the brakes individually to each wheel with varying force.
Kraus explained that the new steering system, essentially a piece of software that can be installed within the ESP control system, will reduce dependence on the last-ditch safety manoeuvres initiated by ESP and as a result further improve car safety. ‘When you enter a bend and are going too fast the car will understeer,’ he explained.
‘ESP recognises that the car understeers and will apply the brakes on the appropriate wheel to bring the vehicle into the curve. But it only starts to help at the last minute when it’s really really necessary.’ He said that the new steering system will begin its work before the ESP system kicks in, using adjustments to the torque of the steering wheel to help the driver find the optimum steering position.
The system does not override the driver’s actions but provides him or her with steering ‘hints’. Indeed, so subtle and comfortable are its workings that the driver may not even notice it. ‘I have driven the system and asked myself did it actually work?’ said Kraus.’It is in the background and you do not feel big forces or changes in the steering wheel but you do steer more effectively.’
While there are other intelligent steering systems on the market – such as BMW’s active front steering system – Kraus claimed that these require a great deal of additional hardware.
The advantage of the Bosch technology, he explained, is that it is effectively an add-on to EPS, a system already used widely throughout Europe. As a result Bosch believes the technology will come on to the market on a far wider scale and at a lower cost than existing systems.
Kraus revealed that the system will enter series production at some point next year but declined to comment on the identity of the customer. Bosch did, however, recently demonstrate a prototype system on-board a Ford Mondeo, although Kraus insisted that no conclusions should be drawn from this.
He added that the system will be applied to middle-range cars that are equipped with both ESP and electromechanical power steering,such as the Skoda Octavia. VW has just outlined plans to launch asimilar system that is planned to be brought into production on the Golf next year.