While nearly all cars today have power steering, and some have variable effort, currently most vehicles have a fixed steering ratio, meaning that at low speeds more steering input is required than at higher speeds. Ford’s Adaptive Steering automatically changes the steering ratio based on road speed and steering wheel input, meaning that at lower speeds less wrestling with the wheel is necessary, making low speed maneuvering and parking much more manageable. The system is similar to those found on Audi’s and BMW’s models, however Ford is the first mainstream manufacturer to offer Adaptive Steering.
The Adaptive Steering system will need to be uniquely tuned for the vehicle, but Ford has worked hard to make a system that can be added to any of the vehicles currently in their lineup, from the Fiesta supermini to the Super Duty heavy duty pickups. It fits inside their current steering wheels, and can work with either hydraulic or electric power steering systems. The system uses an electric motor and gears to adjust the steering ratio on the fly. At lower speeds the steering ratio is made faster, so that fewer turns of the steering wheel are necessary to turn the front wheels a certain amount. At higher speeds the ratio is usually made slower, so that more turns of the wheel are necessary to turn the same amount, making for a more stable highway ride, and allowing the vehicle to react more smoothly and precisely.
The new Adaptive Steering system will be available on select Ford models in the future, starting with the 2015 Ford Edge.