Towards autonomous mobility

Schaeffler is increasingly involved in the field of autonomous mobility solutions. The latest solutions presented at IAA Mobility 2021, the Munich Mobility Exhibition, include Space Drive 3 Add-ON, the third generation of the Space Drive drive-by-wire system, which is already “mature” for commercialisation, the force-feedback handwheel actuator (HWA), its safety and comfort-enhancing intelligent real wheel steering (iRWS) technology as well the Rolling Chassis System: a modular and scalable platform for autonomous mobility in passenger and freight transport.

Schaeffler is steadily expanding its involvement in autonomous mobility based on intelligent chassis systems. At IAA Mobility 2021 in Munich, Schaeffler, under the motto “On Track to Sustainable Mobility” presented for the first time Space Drive 3 Add-ON, the third generation of its Space Drive drive-by-wire system, a multiple redundant technology that paves the way for autonomous driving. The showcased solution highlights the technology’s maturity for commercialization. The premiere on display included the mechatronic systems such as the force-feedback handwheel (HWA), as well as its safety and comfort-enhancing intelligent real wheel steering (iRWS) technology. Schaeffler also presented its new rolling chassis, a vehicle platform that opens the way to completely new forms of autonomous mobility. The key to it all is the wealth of expertise in components and systems that we have amassed over many decades and that we are now able to apply at the whole-vehicle level.

A proven-in-the-field technology, ready for production

Schaeffler’s Space Drive steer-by-wire system transmits driving and steering commands to the vehicle wheels via purely electronic signals, opening the way for autonomous driving. The technology has been proven in the field, with more than a billion accident-free kilometers driven so far, and is undergoing fine-tuning under extreme conditions in motorsport applications. The latest generation of this technology, Space Drive 3 Add-ON, is ready for small-volume production The Space Drive system is triple redundant for maximum safety and meets the exacting functional safety requirements of ISO 26262. Generation 3 is based on the AUTOSAR software standard, meaning it can interface directly with vehicle electronics and onboard communication and network architectures, enabling it to be integrated into existing vehicle assistance systems. Space Drive 3 is a major milestone for Schaeffle , because it means we can offer our customers a production-ready steer-by-wire system that is highly scalable and extremely flexible. What’s more, the system can record every steering parameter, which in self-driving vehicles enables feedback for the advanced driver assistance system (ADAS).

Mechatronic solutions for enhanced comfort and safety

With the force-feedback handwheel actuator (HWA), a mechatronic solution that replaces the conventional steering wheel and mechanical steering column, the amount of space required for the steering system is reduced and completely new possibilities for the design of cab interiors open up – such as the ability to stow the wheel in the center console when in (semi-)autonomous driving mode. The system can suppress undesirable feedback, such as vibrations from uneven road surfaces, and supports variable steering gear ratios, enabling new driving dynamics functions. The HWA is also modular and scalable, so it can be adapted to various applications and classes of vehicle. Combined with the Space Drive steer-by-wire system and mechatronic actuators on the steering gear, it provides intelligent front wheel steering (iFWS). Schaeffler will also be showcasing its intelligent mechatronic rear wheel steering system (iRWS), which is an extremely lightweight solution, weighing no more than eight kilograms, and delivers enhanced safety and ride comfort.

Rolling chassis: a modular, scalable vehicle platform

The showcase will also include Schaeffler’s rolling chassis, a modular, scalable vehicle platform that enables new, driverless mobility solutions for passenger and freight transport as well as for specialized applications, such as cleaning machines. The platform demonstrates Schaeffler’s wide range of mobility technologies. Its flexible architecture supports a broad array of steering and drive variants to suit customer requirements – everything from single electric axles in combination with central steering to implementations incorporating four Schaeffler corner modules. Schaeffler has further optimized its corner modules for scalability and readiness for volume production. Each one allows a steering angle of up to 90 degrees and comprises a wheel hub motor, a wheel suspension system incorporating air suspension that enables the vehicle to “kneel” for greater ease of access, an actuator for electromechanical steering, and a brake mechanism.