Steer-by-wire manufacturer uses racing to stress-test its systems

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DTM team Rowe Racing is to debut a steer-by-wire system in one of its BMW M6 GT3 cars in the opening round of the DTM championship, which kicks off in June at Monza, Italy. The system will make its debut at the official DTM test this week at the Lausitzring.

The Space Drive steer-by-wire system is produced by Schaeffler Paravan and has no mechanical or hydraulic link between the steering wheel and the steering gear. Instead, a control unit transfers the driver’s steering movements, identified by a position sensor on the steering wheel, to an electric motor on the steering gear, which actuates the rack. Another small electric motor on the steering wheel generates force feedback for the driver.

Schaeffler Paravan notes that its system is the only one of its kind in the world with road approval, and hopes that testing and development under extreme stress in motorsport will help fine-tune the system to prepare it for mass production. There is considerable interest in steer-by-wire applications across different vehicle categories, not least their use in autonomous driving systems. To this end, the manufacturer has developed its system to be easily integrated into autonomous vehicle software and sensor stacks, via its own steering control unit.

Hans-Peter Naundorf, team principal of Rowe Racing, enthused, “It is exciting to be involved from the outset in the introduction of a technology like the steer-by-wire system in such a highly professional racing series as the DTM. With the extreme demands it places on the cars, motorsport is the ideal testing platform for a pioneering technology like this. In a few years, this will become an everyday component of modern automobiles, as doing away with a classic steering column offers greater freedom in terms of design. Thank you to Schaeffler Paravan for trusting us to implement this extremely interesting project.”

After successful test outings with the steer-by-wire system at the ADAC 24-hour race at the Nürburgring, in the GTC Race touring car series and in rallying, Rowe Racing says it is confident the system is up to the task in DTM. The car will be driven by former F1 driver and experienced DTM racer Timo Glock, who commented, “I have driven with a joystick at Schaeffler Paravan before, and also with a road car. It felt good. However, a steer-by-wire system in a race car is completely different. I am very excited about it. It is a totally new challenge and a project that will help shape the future of the automobile, whether in a race car or on the streets. In motor racing, we test a lot of things that are subsequently used in production vehicles. I am looking forward to the challenge of developing this topic with Schaeffler Paravan, Rowe Racing and BMW.”

Glock’s teammate, Sheldon van der Linde, will use a traditional steering setup in his BMW M6 GT3. This will provide both team and supplier with excellent reference data. Roland Arnold, CEO of Schaeffler Paravan and co-founder of the company, noted that such comparative testing, with drivers highly attuned to the subtleties of steering feel, would be invaluable. “Over the past two years, we have already gained some important inspiration at the racetrack, which we have used in the further development. By having Timo Glock in the BMW M6 GT3 with Space Drive, and Sheldon van der Linde in an identical BMW M6 GT3 with conventional steering, we are now able to directly compare the technology. This will give us important stimulus in terms of the development of the technology.”

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he oversees Automotive Powertrain Technology International and Professional Motorsport World magazines as editor.

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