You swerve. You reverse. You weave in and out of tight spaces. Constantly. Wrist fatigue should not be synonymous with steering. With that in mind, Ford's Adaptive Steering System is giving customers a breather, supplying an invisible but powerful technology that makes maneuvering your vehicle a little less labor-intensive and a lot more fun.
Ford describes the system as one that "changes the ratio between the driver's actions at the steering wheel -- the number of turns -- and how much the front wheels turn." In traditional vehicles, the steering ratio is fixed. With Ford's Adaptive Steering, this ratio continually varies with vehicle speed. This helps drivers to exert less effort in steering their cars.
The system uses an actuator -- an electric motor and gearing device -- that weighs in at a mere 2 pounds. And unlike adaptive steering systems we've seen before, Ford's is tucked inside the steering wheel and is simply an added feature, meaning that it requires no change to a vehicle's regular steering system. The actuator serves to boost or reduce the exertion required to steer based on how much you turn the wheel.
Low Speeds vs. High Speeds
At low speeds -- such as parallel parking in a sliver-thin spot -- the adaptive steering ratio increases, making the vehicle more agile so you don't have to turn the wheel as much. And when you're zipping down the highway at higher speeds, the steering ratio is slowly diminished. The faster the car goes, the less you'll have to turn the wheel. The technology's barely noticeable; as you start making your way across the interstate, you'll just feel the way it makes your ride smoother and more enjoyable.
Bringing it to the Average Joe
Adaptive steering has been available in luxury vehicles such as Audi and BMW models, but Ford is the first non-luxury automaker to bring this tech to the average consumer. It will be available on select vehicles beginning next year. There's no word yet on which models will house the system, or how much it might cost. But if it gives your commute-weary hands a break, it may worth the cash.
What it means to you: Ford is making adaptive steering technology, formerly reserved for high-end vehicles, available in more mainstream models so your driving experience can be that much more enjoyable.