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Why?

Old 13th Apr 2021, 23:03
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Why?

I am NOT a 'petrolhead' ... if I ever had any pretensions in that direction, they disappeared half a century ago ! However, there is one aspect of motor vehicles that has niggled away at me for as long as i have been a motorist - why the steering wheel !!!? Particularly in an era of 'fly-by-wire' aircraft, the motorist continues to install the most intrusive design object in engineering. Even in its most elegant form, it is obstructive, and awkward, not to mention dangerous - fewer nowadays, but how many deaths have been the result of steering column impaling ? Its basic functionality is undeniable, but I find it difficult to believe that a centrally mounted device, be it rotating 'knob' or aircraft-style control 'stick' wouldn't be a better option. But it doesn't happen. When Harry Ferguson designed and produced his hydraulic individual 4 wheel drive masterpiece, such a control system would have been an obvious inclusion - but, NO!
The reason for posing the question today is that I have just watched part of a review of a new Mercedes saloon - more bells, whistles, lights and technical wazzockry than one could shake the proverbial stick at, but ... stuck out like a sore thumb in the middle of all this over-indulgence ... a bog-standard round of tarted-up metal on the end of a stalk !!! Really ! The very earliest days of motoring gave some the option of tiller steering - a sensible but short-lived feature but today's design geniuses with an infinite variety of hydraulic and electrical wizardry at their disposal, can't manage anything more advanced than the steering wheel.
Just a rant, born of boredom, but feel free to comment - pro or con.
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Old 13th Apr 2021, 23:16
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One doesn't want to introduce multiple degrees of freedom with a stick lest the driver thinks he is in a plane that can up or down. It looks like we gave up and stayed with one intuitive means of going right or left.

Of course it can be changed but at what cost of lives while the old-folks adjust
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Old 13th Apr 2021, 23:41
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See

https://arstechnica.com/cars/2014/06...th-a-joystick/
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Old 13th Apr 2021, 23:48
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If they were to put the control wheel on a centre console, then only the left hand (or in the wrong part of the world) the right hand, would be able to operate it.

How, then, could we steer the car with our legs jammed under the wheel while using both hands on our mobile phones? How to apply eye makeup? Eat a two-handed Triple Salsaburger? Or even just to fiddle with the multi-knobbed entertainment screen in the middle (which needs left hand to reach it, ignoring the Yanks).

The other option would be to have a controller in the centre, and another on the door, so you can use either hand. But when Junior grabs the middle one while you are using the door controller, does the door have priority? And when Junior knocks over your double-decaf soy latte onto the centre controller and fries it........
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Old 13th Apr 2021, 23:53
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When you analyse the geometry and mechanics of a steering wheel and the attached driver it makes a lot of sense. Also we are taught to hold the wheel at the 10 to 2 position for good reason. Having a wheel, on which, by its very nature, the driver's hands move in opposite directions gives the driver some stability. Putting the hands near the top of the wheel means that the mass of the driver forms a sort of negative feedback loop, for example : if the wheel is turned right the driver's body tends to lean to the left. This tends to turn the wheel to the left a little, cancelling out the original rotation. To turn more tightly to the right one needs to put in some more effort. At the risk of making this aviation related, this has a parallel with the thinking (if there had been any) behind MCAS but maybe we shouldn't go there! I can see that having a sidestick might seem a good idea, and is perfectly feasible with today's technology, but for it to work well the driver would need to be constrained more tightly than just a lap and shoulder belt. I, for one, don't want to have a five point harness in my car. Mind you, a stick that I could pull to overtake by jumping over the Sunday driver in front would be nice...
Nurse! The screens please...
Edit : and now I see that the Arstechnicha post describes that in a lot more and better detail.
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Old 13th Apr 2021, 23:56
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https://youtu.be/HQtGmyVaUu4


https://youtu.be/ChqM3zqTREQ
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Old 14th Apr 2021, 00:17
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If you go to an Airbus style joystick, you lose the mechanical connection to the tires doing the steering - and hence any resemblance of feedback. Good cars provide good steering wheel feedback, and good drivers know how to interpret that feedback into how much traction the front tires are getting.
A few weeks ago I had a loaner car while there were doing some work on my BMW. Nice enough car, but the steering feedback was simply horrid. At one point it rained (rather common around here during the annual Seattle Rain Festival - November through April), and I was on an unfamiliar road in an unfamiliar car without steering feedback. It was actually scary because I literally couldn't tell if I was about to lose traction - and so ended up driving far slower than I really needed to.

Early cars used a tiller arrangement - but it didn't work well and was soon replaced by a steering wheel. While the steering column proved dangerous on some older cars, that threat has been pretty much eliminated with collapsible steering columns - and with today's airbags in the steering wheel, the driver is often safer than the person sitting shotgun.
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Old 14th Apr 2021, 00:26
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Why not do away with the column entirely, retain the wheel but make it an electronic panel mounted device, you could add artificial feel to it, after all my throttle pedal is no longer a manual system.
Heck you could make it usb

https://www.scan.co.uk/products/spee...l-black-orange


Side sticks are no good, you have limited movement of inches which when parking need to relate to revolutions of a wheel, that would make normal driving highly twitchy and sensitive.


Thinking about it, if you made the wheel and pedals plug and play, conversion from right hand to left hand drive would be a cinch, simply do the same for the instruments too.

..

Last edited by NutLoose; 14th Apr 2021 at 00:48.
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Old 14th Apr 2021, 00:30
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Originally Posted by NutLoose View Post
Why not do away with the column, retain the wheel but make it an electronic panel mounted device, you could add artificial feel to it, after all my throttle pedal is no longer a manual system
But to what advantage? Lots of software and hardware to provide the feedback that is already there with a mechanical connection.
Plus, if the electronic throttle fails, you just pull over to the side and stop. If the electronic steering fails, you may die...
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Old 14th Apr 2021, 01:18
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Back in the stone age, well the fifties and sixties, when cars and tires were getting bigger but power steering wasn't a regular feature part of the description applied to a vehicle was "Two and a half turns lock to lock." Without that mechanical advantage many of those cars would have been unmanageable. The idea of turning a tiller a turn and a quarter to go round a corner seems a bit silly! The benefit of a wheel is that even when turned it is continuous so movement is smooth, not just when it is straight ahead.

One thing that has changed is that learners no longer seem to be taught that the car should be moving when the wheel is turned, eg, when parking. That was part of my instruction in the old Sunbeam Talbot. Made the wheel turnable and lessened the load on the steering box and suspension components.
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Old 14th Apr 2021, 01:47
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Originally Posted by ChrisVJ View Post
Back in the stone age, well the fifties and sixties, when cars and tires were getting bigger but power steering wasn't a regular feature part of the description applied to a vehicle was "Two and a half turns lock to lock." Without that mechanical advantage many of those cars would have been unmanageable. The idea of turning a tiller a turn and a quarter to go round a corner seems a bit silly!
Actually, that argument was pretty much over by 1915. The weight, speed and inertia of cars grew quite fast even in those early years, so the mechanical advantage and "vernier control" of a large steering wheel won the day.

If one desired, and could handle, something of the "feel" of a tiller, one could get bolt-on knobs ("Brodie Knobs") on the wheel rim, which approximated the one-point/one-hand control of a tiller (and left one hand free for gear shifting). They were pretty popular in the 1950s, when power-steering was still a rather expensive option on consumer vehicles. My grandad had one on his 1951 Oldsmobile.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikiped...rodie_knob.jpg

"Power" (or hydraulically-assisted) steering mostly resulted in smaller steering wheels in the last half of the 20th century.

As for me, I find a wheel acts as a nice "analog gauge" of where the (hidden) wheels are pointed - turn it to here, the wheels are pointed there, the nose (or tail) will go thataway. Excellent feedback.
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Old 14th Apr 2021, 02:26
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Ah, the K&L Easyturn. I had one on my Wolseley. It was a huge car but I could spin the wheel lock to lock in the blink of an eye, stamp on the brakes while selecting reverse and then loop into the next phase of my violent three point turn. Huh, I can still hear my pal's American girlfriend hollerin', Look at that guy throwing that thing around. I was 18 and at the back of the Colchester library. Memories. She popped up on FB or somesuch a few years ago. Swapped stories of our lives..

This was in 1943. Can anyone beat me to owning a steering wheel?





There it is, or one of them. This is on my pal's RHD 59 Ford. Yards of wheel needs such a device.






I had a Mk 10 or two. Despite powered steering, it had a steering box, which I managed to explode the top off by turning the wheel. Since the hydraulic oil was on the pub forecourt, there was no longer any pressure, so I put the lid back on the box and held it on with the few nuts that weren't entirely stripped. Limped home.
Mk II was the same. Dreadful. E-Type was the first rack I owned . . . I think.

Steering wheels and Jags. Have you seen the wheel boss on a Xk 120? Designed to do open heart surgery.
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Old 14th Apr 2021, 02:46
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Without embarrassing you, is that first one a Noddy car? I seem to remember those.
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Old 14th Apr 2021, 03:10
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That first one brings back painful memories. There was one for sale in a shop right at the top of Wimbledon Hill. I wanted that so badly. (Nice working steering wheel too.)

Interestingly the Japanese word for steering wheel today is still ハンドル (handle) which seems to have its roots in the good old tiller. Thus one might elect a 'handle-keeper' for an event where alcohol might feature.
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Old 14th Apr 2021, 03:29
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Without embarrassing you, is that first one a Noddy car? I seem to remember those.
Now you mention it. I've looked at it anew. Nice little car, isn't it? And with real door. I'd have made the lights work for my kid, assuming I wasn't at war.

This car would have been pre-war. However, there's always someone with something better. A lad at Walton had a magnificent hand built one. Rather like a long bonnet Grand Tourer. He became a Taxi and Hearse driver.
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Old 14th Apr 2021, 04:25
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Star Wars - The Millennium Falcon - No steering wheel or joystick.

Somehow flipping a few toggle switches was enough to steer it, especially in tight spaces...
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Old 14th Apr 2021, 04:51
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You're all missing the main issue.. why invent an alternative to the driver-vehicle interface when its pretty obvious the car will be able to drive itself better?

Anilv
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Old 14th Apr 2021, 07:36
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I think it's safer to have the current mechanical linkages in place to direct the wheels just in case all power is lost. Steering wheels are great to hold onto when going around a bend, or when the bend goes around you.

But if you want an ultra-modern interface for steering then fit a swipe screen - it will be completely natural for Gen Zombie. They could even use it for acceleration and braking. They won't even need to look out the front window because a computer taking input from a camera would render everything in stupid proof mode on the swipe display and safely execute the request.
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Old 14th Apr 2021, 07:58
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I'm with Anilv

Quite frankly, it seems to me that petrol heads are a dying breed. Petrol and diesel are going away so quickly now, that soon they will need to be called electric or (empty) heads. Will your self-driving and navigating car still need a steering wheel?

Speed and acceleration will become unnecessary risks as we all embrace more leisure time, homeworking, home entertainment, home delivery, home cooking and click and collect. Cycling and walking will become the norm.

Any vehicle pollution including fumes and noise will be anathema to the masses. This will extend to all forms of transport and since we will have so much leisure time, we will be sail cruising around the world.

...and you can have any colour you like

IG
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Old 14th Apr 2021, 07:59
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Then there is the Austin Allegro steering square

no wait why reinvent the wheel




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