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All about Drive-by-Wire Systems of Steering

Drive-by-wire is a steering mechanism in cars that uses electronic control and electric actuators in the place of traditional and mechanical systems. This eliminates a lot of mechanical components from the vehicle and has its own advantages.

Disadvantages of the traditional power steering system

  • The power steering in a car runs all the time the engine is on.
  • This leads to wastage of energy and fuel.

Drive-by-wire overcomes the problem
Over the recent years, there have been a lot of advancements in the steering system to overcome this problem. One of those advancements made is the drive-by-wire or steer-by-wire system. Being entirely electronic, this system would completely removes the need mechanically connecting the steering wheel and with the wheels.

How it works
There are steering wheels that come as part of video games. This would be very similar, with sensors absorbing information about the steering actions done by the driver, and the steering action feedback done by the wheels. The sensors enable to control the motorized steering. The straightforward advantage this system is that it creates a lot of space and reduces weight. It also would reduce vibration in the car.

A concept-car of this mechanism was developed by general motors, and it was called the ‘Hy-wire’. The most important feature of this car is that you can fine tune the car’s steering according to your own preferences without doing anything mechanically in the car. This is done by making adjustments in the computer software that comes with the system. It is akin to how we adjust seat positions today, tomorrow, we might see the same controls being used for steering purposes. This can be used to shift between the driving preferences of different drivers.


  • Improved safety with the usage of systems like ESC (electronic stability control).
  • Improved ergonomics in terms of force applied by the driver and flexibility in controls.
  • This flexibility offers a lot of options in terms of vehicle’s design.


  • The cost of drive by wire is always higher than the traditional power steering systems. This is due to the crucial, high precision electronic devices used.
  • To make the system fail-proof and to improve safety, (driving is highly important for safety), a lot of other systems like sensors have to be added. These are simply not needed for a traditional system. An understanding of these highly technological systems is not easy for existing drivers.
  • Even if all systems are properly designed, there is always a possibility of system failure. If any such thing happens at high speeds, there is nothing to give support. For example, if the central control unit in the car malfunctions, all systems would be in trouble, and this would be dangerous. This is quite unlikely in a traditional car where, it is improbable for all the systems to break down at the same time.

Updated: March 20, 2015 — 3:17 am

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