Advances in Variable Ratio Steering

active steering

Keeping a car stable on the road has a lot to do with the suspension and tire technology. However, there are also things that can contribute stability while driving that is housed inside of the vehicle’s steering wheel. This is the approach that has been taken with Ford’s New Variable-Ratio Steering System. This type of new steering approach helps a driver to move the wheels of a car more while not having to turn the steering wheel excessively.

Not a New Concept

This type of steering, referred to as active steering, is something that has been around for the past 12 to 13 years. In fact, luxury automakers like BMW have been employing this type of steering in many of their luxury vehicles. There are several things that make the Ford approach unique.

The Difference

The first difference between the BMW inspire active steering and Ford’s variable ratio steering is that Ford’s adaptation is the first of its type to be introduced on non-luxury vehicles. The fact is that a person won’t have to spend a small fortune to have improved steering and stability while driving a vehicle.

Easy to Upgrade

Another benefit to this type of ratio steering technology is that because it’s housed in the steering wheel, virtually any Ford vehicle with enough clearance room in the steering wheel can be retrofitted with variable ratio steering. Ford was very deliberate in making this a standalone unit in the hopes of being able to retrofit new models, as well as customers being able to retrofit existing Ford vehicles with this new type of steering technology.

Variable Ratios of the Past

The fact is that this type of variable ratio steering has been around for a while. However, in the past there were trade-offs. Higher ratios for steering meant that a person would have to turn the wheel many times in order to get them to turn. The benefit to this was that even though a great deal of wheel was having to be put into turning, it was extremely easy to move the steering wheel.

With steering that had lower ratios, less turning of the steering wheel had been done in order to get the tires to move. Unfortunately, this made turning the wheel extremely difficult. While some of these things were improved with power steering, variable steering ratios still exhibited similar challenges, even with a power steering unit.

Powered Units as a Solution

To counteract that, when active steering or variable ratio steering was introduced by BMW, the unit was powered by electricity. Much like power steering helped people maneuver cars without a great deal of resistance, the electric powered active steering device allowed for easy steering, regardless of whether the wheel was moving a great deal or only moving a little. This same premise is what has been introduced by Ford in its new variable ratio steering.

The Benefits

Many people might wonder about the benefits of this type of steering device. One of the main benefits is being able to steer and maneuver the vehicle in tight spaces. With tighter urban areas, smaller parking spaces and more traffic than ever before, having a vehicle that can handle easily in confined spaces without the driver having to turn the wheel excessively makes for a better handling vehicle.

At higher rates of speed, this type of steering allows the driver more stability. Less wheel needs to be used at higher speeds in general. However with variable ratio steering, even less turning will need to be made in the event that a driver will have to make evasive movements at highway speeds.

These advancements in variable ratio steering technologies will be of benefit to a large number of drivers on the road today. For drivers of heavy duty service trucks or commuters that own small compact vehicles, easier steering and maneuverability will continue to be a highly sought after feature in modern vehicles. With Ford making their technology more accessible, competitive manufacturers will likely follow suit.