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Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Drive-By-Wire Lets Motorists Operate Models With Sensors

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BY LESLIE J. ALLEN
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER via Knight Ridder

SKF demonstrated Novanta last week at the Compuware Arena, down the street from SKF's North American technical center in Plymouth.

Novanta has no accelerator or brake pedals -- only a mechanism called a human-machine interface that looks like a cross between an airplane steering wheel and the handlebars of a motorcycle. Rotate the handles back and forth to throttle the car up or down; squeeze them to brake, turn them side-to-side to steer.

The SKF system uses sensors to read the driver's actions and transfer the information to controllers called smart electro-mechanical actuators. The actuators convert electrical energy into force to perform vehicle functions.

When the driver attempts to turn the car, for example, sensors, rather than a steering column, send that information to the steering rack to turn the wheels.

In addition to the technologies found in Novanta, SKF is working on by-wire systems to handle emergency brakes and clutches. Eventually, it hopes to develop suspension-by-wire to improve vehicle ride and handling, said Steven F. Brown, director of North America programs for SKF's drive-by-wire business unit.


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