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Electronic Steering Sensors: The Basics
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Electronic Steering Sensors: The Basics

Previously on our steering column blog, we touched on the widespread trend of electric vehicles in Electric Off-Highway Vehicles: The Lowdown. Though such technology faces a few challenges getting off the ground (like infrastructure), companies everywhere are beginning to see the value of electricity in powering a greener future.

Electricity isn't limited to powering these machines as wholes; It can also serve well in steering applications.

BSM North America, your preferred Burnsville provider of off-road steering columns, explains how electricity has transformed how vehicles handle and perform.

What Is an Electric Steering Sensor?

ResearchDive claims, “The global electric power steering (EPS) sensor market is predicted to garner $26,736.3 million in the 2021–2028 timeframe, growing from $13,860.0 million in 2020."

That's a whole lot of growth. So what is this tech, and why is it so special? Understanding how its predecessor, hydraulic steering, works will provide the context for appreciating this technology's potential.

Hydraulic systems use a pump to provide a more effortless steering experience with control valves that return the pressurized fluid for optimized responsiveness and consistent balance. As the wheel is turned, a hydraulic flow path is opened, sending fluid to cylinders, which change the wheels' direction.

With its need for power steering fluid and design being more over complex, there is a call for replacement, and electronic is the answer.

Electronic steering sensors help a device to steer with, as their name implies, a multitude of electronic sensors. Such sensors analyze a "command" from multiple angles, delivering an algorithmic and precise performance.

Another perk it offers is that it comes with less maintenance because no power steering fluid is needed, and its design can be integrated with advanced driving systems like lane assist.

Why Use Electronic Steering Sensors?

A variety of reasons! For example, as Completecar explains, the electric power steering that goes along with these sensors supplies steering if the engine were to stall, while hydraulic steering systems do not. This makes the former a much safer steering wheel column solution.

Because electronic steering sensors also integrate software into steering, they provide much more dynamic handling capabilities.

Hydraulic steering relies on older methodologies, while electronic steering sensors enable mathematical precision and human ingenuity to aid the steering process.

Control Algorithms for Steering

Electronic steering systems rely on sophisticated algorithms to interpret sensor data and generate steering assist commands.

Here's an explanation of the key concepts involved in these algorithms.

Torque Feedback Control

Torque feedback control is a fundamental concept in electronic steering systems that aims to provide the driver with a natural and intuitive steering feel. The system calculates the torque the driver applies to the steering wheel and adjusts the level of steering assist accordingly.

For example, if the driver applies a greater torque to the steering wheel, indicating a desire for more responsive steering, the system increases the level of assistance to reduce the effort required to turn the wheel.

Conversely, if the driver applies less torque, indicating a desire for smoother steering, the system reduces the level of assistance.

Steering Angle Feedback

Steering angle feedback involves continuously monitoring the position of the steering wheel and the corresponding angle of the vehicle's front wheels.

Sensors, such as potentiometers or Hall effect sensors, measure the rotation of the steering shaft and provide feedback to the electronic control unit (ECU). The ECU uses this information to determine the intended direction of the vehicle and adjust the steering assist accordingly.

The system can detect deviations and apply corrective measures to maintain stability and control by comparing the desired steering angle with the actual steering angle.

Speed-Dependent Assist Algorithms

Speed-dependent assist algorithms adjust the level of steering assistance based on the vehicle's speed. The system provides maximum assistance to facilitate easier steering efforts at low speeds, such as during parking maneuvers or city driving.

As the vehicle's speed increases, the system gradually reduces the level of assistance to provide a more direct and responsive steering feel. This adaptive approach ensures that the steering effort remains appropriate for the driving conditions, balancing ease of maneuverability with stability and control.

These algorithms work together to optimize steering performance and enhance driver comfort and confidence. By continuously monitoring sensor data and adjusting steering assist parameters in real-time, electronic steering systems can adapt to a wide range of driving situations and provide a seamless and intuitive steering experience.

Types of Sensors Used in Electronic Steering

Here's a more detailed explanation of the types of sensors commonly used in electronic steering systems.

Potentiometers

Potentiometers, also known as "pots," are variable resistors that change resistance as the steering wheel is turned. They typically consist of a resistive element and a sliding contact (wiper) that moves along the resistive track.

As the steering wheel turns, the wiper's position changes, altering the resistance. This change in resistance is then converted into a voltage signal proportional to the steering angle.

Potentiometers are simple and cost-effective sensors used in many basic electronic steering systems.

Hall Effect Sensors

Hall effect sensors rely on the Hall effect, which is the production of a voltage difference (Hall voltage) across an electrical conductor when subjected to a magnetic field perpendicular to the current flow.

In electronic steering systems, Hall effect sensors are often used in conjunction with a magnet mounted on the steering shaft. As the shaft rotates, the magnetic field changes, causing the Hall effect sensor to produce a voltage signal proportional to the steering angle.

Hall effect sensors offer advantages such as durability, reliability, and immunity to dust and dirt.

Optical Sensors

Optical sensors use light to detect changes in position or motion. In electronic steering systems, optical sensors may employ a rotating disc with slots or markings mounted on the steering shaft.

A light source and a photodetector (such as a photodiode or phototransistor) are positioned on opposite sides of the disc. As the disc rotates with the steering shaft, the light passing through the slots or markings is interrupted, causing fluctuations in the detected light intensity. These fluctuations are then converted into electrical signals representing the steering angle.

Optical sensors offer high precision and resolution, making them suitable for applications requiring fine steering control.

Inductive Sensors

Inductive sensors operate based on the principle of electromagnetic induction. They consist of a coil of wire and a ferromagnetic core.

In electronic steering systems, an inductive sensor may detect changes in the magnetic field induced by the rotation of a toothed gear or encoder wheel attached to the steering shaft. As the gear or wheel rotates, the magnetic field passing through the coil changes, inducing a voltage signal proportional to the steering angle.

Inductive sensors are known for their robustness and suitability for harsh environments.

Designing Steering Columns to Work With Electronic Sensors

These sensor technologies play a crucial role in electronic steering systems by accurately measuring steering input and providing feedback to the vehicle's control system. The choice of sensor depends on factors such as cost, performance requirements, environmental conditions, and system integration considerations.

At BSM North America, our steering columns, stop mechanisms, and self-centering devices can interact with several electronic steering sensors. Our team strives to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and industry innovations so that we can keep providing the quick, personalized help we're so well-known for.

Our expertise isn't limited to your standard-issue steering column – we do everything from e-steer design to steer-by-wire concepts. No matter what solution you need, we'd be proud to help you find it!

Contact BSM in Burnsville for Sophisticated Steering Solutions

BSM North America has been serving the Burnsville area for over 30 years and specializes in OEM console designs and steering systems that are setting the standards for quality. We serve multiple industries, from construction to military and defense, and our advanced technology and experience make us a cutting-edge provider.

Ready to start designing? We're ready to help! Reach out to our Burnsville custom steering column office today at 952-890-8146.

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