The quest for drive-by-wire vehicles, which slowed over the last four years as automakers awaited 42-volt architectures, may again be gaining momentum. SKF Automotive Division has rolled out a new drive-by-wire prototype called Novanta, which uses by-wire technology to control steering, gear change, acceleration, and braking.
The new vehicle, an update of the company's Filo by-wire car that debuted in 2001, is seen as a sign that automakers are keeping by-wire technology on their long-range agenda. The system works by translating the driver's commands into electronic signals and then transmitting them to the company's Smart Electro-Mechanical Actuation Unit at the steering rack or brake. It therefore eliminates the need for hydraulics, mechanical linkages, and cables.
Despite the lag in by-wire implementation, SKF executives say that the technology is ultimately bound for success, mainly because of the safety advantages it provides.
"Experience shows that about 95 percent of fatal accidents are caused by human error," says Filippo Zingariello, vice president of SKF Automotive Division's By-Wire Business Unit. "And by-wire is the fundamental enabling technology for dynamic safety systems." In particular, Zingariello says, by-wire would serve as a building block for such features as autonomous lane-keeping and collision avoidance.
Shown here is SKF's by-wire Novanta vehicle. The company says that by-wire parking brakes will form the backbone of its by-wire business for the next five years.
SKF is currently working with several unnamed automakers on by-wire parking brakes, which are expected to serve as an intermediate step to brake-by-wire technology. The electric systems, which provide a virtual guarantee that the parking brake will work whenever needed, will form the backbone of SKF's by-wire business for the next five years.
"By-wire is taking more time than anyone expected," Zingariello says. "But it's still coming by the beginning of the next decade."
For more information on SKF's By-wire technology, go here.†