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Press release | World innovation: Steer-by-wire system – the next step on the way to autonomous driving for commercial vehicles

Innovative steering technology for urban mobility of the future. Nabtesco continues to expand its activities in the automotive sector. Together with adcos, a company of the Nabtesco Group, the gear specialist has developed an electromechanical steering and drive solution for commercial vehicles as the next step toward the vision of autonomous driving. The first prototypes of the innovative steer-by-wire system are being used as working prototypes in the new urban transport concept SRT (super virtual rail train) of the Chinese rail vehicle manufacturer CRRC / ZELC.

A passenger test operation of six super virtual rail trains (SRT) started recently in the Chinese city of Yancheng. The vehicles are 36-meter electrically driven buses with four articulated modules which – controlled via software only – can transport up to 320 passengers on a virtually calculated tramway rail. The steer-by-wire system, which is designed for purely electromechanical operation and fulfils the ISO 26262-ASIL D standard, was developed within the Nabtesco group – a pioneering achievement, since there are no comparable systems on the market.

Concentrated mechatronics expertise

To implement the electromechanical steering system, Nabtesco, the cycloidal gear specialist and automation expert, and adcos, a development partner specialising in software and hardware solutions for mechatronic systems, bundled their competences to develop the first prototypes of the world’s first steer-by-wire system for commercial vehicles; the system was ready for test operation after only seven months. The innovative drive concept consists of a specially developed cycloidal gear, a custom designed two-channel motor, a control unit, and an advanced steering algorithm, all of which are custom tailored for use in the high-voltage platforms of electric vehicles. All safety-related elements are designed for redundant operation. Each SRT is equipped with six interconnected steering drives, which are mounted on the single axles.

Cycloidal gears in automotive applications 

Cycloidal gears are most commonly found in robotics. But due to their high power density, reliability and robust design, these compact precision drives are now increasingly finding their way into numerous other sectors and high-tech applications. For example, they are ideally suited for use in the automotive industry. Designed for maximum precision, quality and efficiency, they enable high torque performance in a compact space, and can readily be adapted to custom requirements. In cycloidal gears, power transmission is achieved by cams and rollers. The result is high efficiency, excellent resistance to shocks, and minimal backlash throughout the entire life cycle. 

Automation solutions for mobility of the future

Out of the robot and into the vehicle: The Chinese SRT project has once again allowed Nabtesco to demonstrate its innovative strength and technology leadership as an automation expert and system supplier. For the commercial vehicle sector the innovative steering system from Nabtesco and adcos would open up entirely new possibilities in the development of pioneering transport concepts. This would mean, for example, discontinuing the use of hydraulic systems, making buses and trucks more efficient, safer and more eco-friendly through the use of smart technology. Incidentally, other partners in the project include the two Swiss companies Balance Drive AG and Derap AG, which were responsible for the project management.