Drive by Wire cars



Pictured above: the dashboard of the Mercedes joystick car


Car Manufactures are always looking for a different or sometimes cheaper approach to building cars and this Mercedes prototype is very different at a cost of $1.3 million and not legal to drive on most streets. 

It's controlled by the kind of joysticks kids use to play video computer games. There are no mechanical links between the steering column, the wheels and the brakes -- only a sophisticated system of electronic sensors, wires and controls. 

DaimlerChrysler AG is developing such "drive-by-wire" systems to improve vehicle safety and comfort while simplifying car design and production. Yet it's far from certain that consumers weaned on steering wheels and pedals will take to the next-generation products -- even if regulatory and cost hurdles can be overcome. 

A team led by Ulrich Hipp, a physicist, have spent four years transforming a Mercedes-Benz SL 500 into a futuristic "sidestick" car that challenges every notion of what it means to drive a car. It marries state-of-the-art aircraft technology and high-speed computers with the wheels, engine, steering and brakes that have defined the auto industry for the past 100 years. It's a new world only a fighter pilot -- or your wired teenager -- might find familiar. 

"The movement of the stick is exactly the movement of the car," says Hipp, the project manager, taking a break from test drives at a small airfield 30 minutes from Stuttgart. "We think it's more intuitive driving with a stick. You have to learn it. The hand is the most sensitive tool of man. You can exert very strong forces in a very short period of time." 

The DaimlerChrysler research vehicle has no steering wheel and no pedals, eliminating perhaps two of a car's most dangerous items for a driver. Instead, it is equipped with twin sidesticks -- similar to computer joysticks -- that control acceleration, turning and braking of the 326 horsepower, 5-litre V-8 car. 

Mercedes are not the only manufacturer looking at drive by wire technology other car company's are already seeing the advantages of replacing parts like accelerator and handbrake cables with electronic devices as it reduces cost and complexity of manufacture.

If manufactures go that one step further and replace the cars steering column with an electronic version they could not only reduce cost and increase safety but also create a car that could be left or right hand drive with the only change in manufacture costs being cosmetic items like the dashboard. Some more advanced systems could even see the car take over the steering to avoid a potential accident.

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Did You Know?

Galvin Manufacturing Corporation introduced the first car radio in 1930. It was named "Motorola" linking the ideas of "motion" and "sound." Motorola later becomes the brand name for all Galvin Manufacturing Corporation's products.



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