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Stepping on the brakes. Hitting the accelerator. Turning the steering wheel.
Motorists of the future may have little tolerance for such old-fashioned ways of operating their cars thanks to the emerging drive-by-wire technology.
In most cars, it takes an assortment of cables, fluids and mechanical gizmos to translate what the driver does into what the car does.
Drive-by-wire, already used widely in planes, where it is known as fly-by-wire, means employing electronics, rather than mechanical and hydraulic systems, to operate a vehicle: Steering columns and brake lines give way to sensors and actuators. Steering wheels can be replaced with joysticks or driver control units and human-machine interfaces.
SKF, a Swedish auto supplier known best for making bearings and seals, is one of the companies trying for a piece of the market. Among the others are Delphi Corp., Siemens VDO Automotive and Robert Bosch GmbH.
SKF has placed drive-by-wire technology in several prototype vehicles, including General Motors Corp.'s fuel-cell-powered Hy-Wire, and the Novanta, a Saab-based concept developed with Italian design house Bertone. SKF also developed fly-by-wire technology used in several Airbus models.