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Drive-by-wire systems can help fuel economy, Brown said, because they reduce losses in engine power caused by the continuous running of systems like power-steering pumps.
In addition, they liberate car designers, removing bulky devices and theoretically allowing the controls for steering, braking and other functions to be placed just about anywhere in the vehicle.
A brake-by-wire system from Siemens "literally cuts the cable from the brake pedal to the brakes," said spokesman Bradley Warner. "Get rid of fluid, fluid lines ... now you can position the brake pedal anywhere you want."
Driver controls on the Novanta fold into the driver-side door when not in use. The control unit on Hy-Wire slides from one side of the vehicle to the other, allowing the car to be driven from the driver or passenger seat.
Drivers could operate Siemens' brake-by-wire system by hand, but the supplier predicts auto companies will at first opt for a standard foot pedal layout.