Nexteer gets its hands on seamless transition between manual and autonomous driving

The immediate future of driving will not be completely hands-off. That means the steering wheel will likely remain where it is. When it's no longer needed, it'll make itself scarce, or even morph into a mobile infotainment console. When the driver wants to feel in control, the steering wheel will again report for duty.

On-the-fly switches between manual and autonomous modes may seem logical, but a great deal of technological development needs to happen to make these transitions seamless and safe.

Recently, Auburn Hills-based Nexteer Automotive, proved that the steering wheel is not yet going the way of the buggy whip, and announced its development of the first all-in-one suite of steering technology mixed mode driving.

We asked Jeff Zuraski, executive director of research and development for Nexteer, what went into this transition technology.
Jeffrey Zuraski, executive director of research and development for Nexteer Automotive
Driven: Why is the transition between manual and autonomous driving considered a challenge in the industry?

Zuraski: Transitions from autonomous driving back to manual driving can be challenging due to the time needed by the driver to re-acclimate to his or her surrounding environment. As one piece of this solution puzzle, Nexteer’s Steering on Demand System (SoD) provides safe, natural transitions between manual and automated driving modes.

What did it take to find a solution?

First, we need to identify the conditions that are required before making the transition. For example, it requires discriminating between intended and unintended input. We also need a combination of inputs to check driver readiness and a control method to make a safe, graceful handoff.

This involves many technologies working in tandem. Which part was the most challenging?

Incorporating the various building blocks of a system can be the most challenging when getting technologies to work in tandem. That is where Nexteer’s in-house capabilities across several engineering disciplines, plus our expertise in vehicle-level systems integration help us solve mobility challenges for this new frontier.

How important are partnerships in taking this transition technology to market?

Nexteer is a Tier 1 supplier to our global automotive OEM customers. We bring concepts and design options to our customers. We collaborate, share ideas and alternatives, while converging on the salable product. The OEMs ultimately decide how they would like the technology to work in their vehicles.

When will we start seeing these in consumer automobiles?

The first vehicles with automation technologies are fleet vehicles or ride service vehicles. In fact, these are, in limited volumes, already on the road today. In the future, this technology will expand to include privately owned vehicles with automated and manual mode driving capabilities. Market-leading OEMs could launch these types of technologies within the next five or so years.

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