NSK has developed a tilt and telescopic steering column it claims offers improved collision safety thanks to a new design of breakaway structure that improves reliability in an impact.

The new unit also is lighter for better fuel economy and has higher vibrational rigidity to improve driver comfort.

A newly developed breakaway structure reduces variance in breakaway force by 25% achieved by moving the breakaway structure from the unit attachment bracket to the outer tube of the column shaft. As a result, the column's impact absorption activates more reliably in a collision, improving safety.

In effect, the column tube collapses into itself with the mid portion of the steering column unit remaining in place so that impact force can be more reliably absorbed. This contrasts to conventional units where the mid portion is designed to fall away during collision, resulting in a larger variance in impact force absorption.

The new steering column offers 11% (7 Hz) higher vibrational rigidity, which has been achieved by optimising the design of the tilt bracket.

The assembly is 15% (560 g) lighter than conventional alternatives. Lower weight was achieved by reducing the number of components required. Structural shape has been simplified by moving the breakaway structure to the outer tube of the column shaft.

The basic technology has been around for about half a century.

General Motors introduced collapsible steering columns for 1968 models late in 1967. Early in 1968, an Australian driver walked away with very minor injuries from a serious crash involving one of the first HK series Holdens fitted with such a column which reportedly 'collapsed away under the dashboard'.

The mangled wreck was subsequently displayed alongside new cars at motor shows and in showrooms to demonstrate the effectiveness of the innovation.

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