Tesla patents a new steer-by-wire system | Electrek

July 12, 2023

Tesla has filed for a patent on a new steer-by-wire system. Electrek previously reported that Tesla is building a team to bring steer-by-wire technology to its electric vehicles.

A steer-by-wire system eliminates the use of mechanical linkages in a steering system, and instead, it only relies on electrical or electromechanical systems for steering.

It has the potential to be more efficient, offer better steering configurations, and open up the vehicle’s cockpit to different designs.

However, many markets still require mechanical linkages in steering systems in order for a vehicle to be road legal.

Tesla, like many automakers, has already implemented motors and actuators for drive controls in order to implement its assisted driving features under Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, but it still has a mechanical link to its steering system.

In 2020, Electrek reported that Tesla is building a new team in Austin with the goal of developing a new steer-by-wire system.

A year later, CEO Elon Musk confirmed that Tesla is indeed working on steer-by-wire progressive steering, but it’s still years away.

Now we learn that Tesla has filed for a patent for a new steer-by-wire system.

The automaker wrote in the abstract of the patent application:

A vehicle steering system by wire to control the lateral motion of the vehicle is provided. The system includes a steering wheel torque feedback actuator assembly with two controllers, a front road wheel steering actuator assembly with two zonally isolated motors and controllers, two separate power assemblies, two separate vehicle communication networks in separate wiring bundle assemblies, and three private system communication networks between each node in the steering system. The redundant components are zonally isolated such that common cause of faults do not endanger the system when one or more of the components fails. The system can include differential gearbox road wheel actuator to allow absolute position of the road wheels. The system can further include a set of position sensor assemblies including two magnetic and one inductive sensor assemblies.

Here’s a drawing of Tesla’s system:

In the disclosure, Tesla claims that its design allows for redundancy without having a mechanical steering system as a backup.

Electrek’s Take

Top comment by Haggy

The motors and actuators were needed for power steering anyway. There's no traditional power steering pump so even before Autopilot it was necessary to sense torque on the steering wheel and use the data to control a motor based on the movement of the wheel. Autopilot needs to send the same signals that would be sent if the driver applied torque to the wheel, but having it done the way power steering was already implemented made things easier. Likewise, something like ACC was easier given that the accelerator pedal is already "by wire." That left an issue with the brake booster, and switching to the iBooster solved that, but a big part of what Tesla did was making use of what was there. The down side was the decision to use what they had instead of working from the ground up meant not implementing blind spot indicators on the mirrors, since the car already had a screen, etc. They did need to step up the parking sensor design to have another four sensors, but it was still building on what they had.

Yes! I like that Tesla is moving forward with this. It seems like a natural progression for vehicles.

I know that some people are worried about hacking vehicles, but I don’t think steer-by-wire accentuates those concerns considering if you can hack a vehicle that has actuators to control steering, you could have just as much damage as with a vehicle with steer-by-wire.

Therefore, yes, we should be concerned about hacking vehicles, but it should be a blanket concern for virtually all new vehicles other than maybe a new Lada.

As for Tesla’s used of the technology, I am sure they are thinking of some advantages with self-driving, but it can also be useful for human driving, especially when it comes to tuning the steering for its yoke steering wheel.

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Tesla patents a new steer-by-wire system | Electrek