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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

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.

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