Impact of Autonomous Driving on Steering Development Technology in Europe and North America, 2017
Electric power steering (EPS) is more of less a standard fitment across most of the vehicle models. However, autonomous driving poses several interesting challenges to the steering technology community. First, once vehicles start to operate by themselves, steering systems will expect to cater to loss-of-assist mitigation in order to provide a safety net as and when the EPS powerpack fails to provide assist for steering the vehicle. This will therefore force steering suppliers to migrate from fail safe systems to fail operational systems for steering.
Second, autonomous driving does not require humans to drive the vehicle, in which case the use of steering wheel is made redundant. This then allows OEMs and steering suppliers to concentrate on technologies that will help either eliminate the steering wheel or allow the steering to retract to the dashboard if not required. Keeping these in mind OEMs have showcased future cockpit concepts, but to realize such concepts steer-by-wire must be the system of choice for OEMs.
However, the major stumbling block for the steering suppliers is the regulatory compliance. As per regulation automatically controlled steering function (ACSF) becomes operational, this shall be indicated to the driver and the control action shall be automatically disabled if the vehicle speed exceeds the set limit of 10 km/hr by more than 20 percent or the signals to be evaluated are no longer being received. Any termination of control shall produce a short but distinctive driver warning by a visual signal and either an acoustic signal or by imposing a tactile warning signal on the steering control. Regulations like these and the Vienna convention (UN ECE R79) which does not allow for hands off driving are being modified in order to incorporate autonomous functionality of vehicles.
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