Hitachi Astemo, the Japanese supplier, said it had developed a prototype steer by wire steering device which eliminates the conventional steering wheel and expands cabin space.

“Steer by wire is….. an essential technology for self-driving and other next generation vehicles,” the company said in a statement.

Its new technology links the steering and turning actuators via electric signals to steer the car providing, the supplier claimed, “the benefit of improved safety and comfort, as well as flexibility for interior design”.

“New steer by wire devices that retain the conventional steering wheel – or eliminate it altogether – give automobile manufacturers improved flexibility in designing next-generation vehicles.”

A smaller steering device can, however, result in the vehicle’s steering being overly sensitive to driver inputs. To resolve this, the new steering device incorporates advanced steering feel technology, developed by the former Showa Corporation (merged to become part of Hitachi Astemo in 2021) plus information control technology which detects and transmits road surface information, jointly developed with parent company Hitachi.

The speed sensitive steering, optimised steering ratios to manage steering angle, and communicative control technology, which detects and suppresses distracting external disturbances such as road surface irregularities and inclines, enable smooth driving without being oversensitive to vehicle movement.

To prevent failures, which are a concern with steer by wire systems, fail safe functions are integrated to ensure continued operation in the event of a failure or loss of circuitry. Two power supplies are used for the actuator, and the steering angle sensor detects the steering device’s input angle in the actuator.