The automotive market has seen a lot of technological innovations in the last decade, with direct-injection, electric power steering, LED lighting, and others, transitioning to rare, expensive features on luxury cars to common features on everything down to compact hatchbacks. Due to the demanding use and duty cycles of trucks, some of these features are just now finding their way into pickups, or still haven't made the total leap into truckdom.
The Ford F-150 and Ram 1500 brought the debut of electric power-assist steering to the segment, a feature now also offered on the 2014 General Motors 1/2-ton trucks, and likely soon to become a standard feature across the 1/2-ton segment. For HD trucks, traditional hydraulic power assist still is the predominant standard. Thanks to advancements by Nexteer, HD trucks may soon enjoy some of the efficiency and feature benefits of electric power assist.
However, unlike lighter-duty systems, Nexteer's system for HD trucks is hybrid electro-hydraulic. One of the primary reasons full EPS is not suitable for HD applications is the power requirements. Current EPS systems are constrained by the predominant 12-volt automotive power system. The one on the Ford F-150, as well as the Ram 1500 and 2014 GM half-tons, all of which Nexteer supplies, is a 12-volt system. Nexteer's HD solution combines its Magnasteer with Torque Overlay (MTO), and Smart Flow hydraulic pump technologies. The MTO system incorporates data inputs from multiple vehicle sensors to determine the appropriate level of assist and response. Like a full EPS system, MTO enables lead and pull compensation, lane keeping, return-to-center, and park assist.
The company claims a 30-percent efficiency advantage over a conventional hydraulic system, and says it has a lead customer for the MTO system, which will be available in production trucks starting in 2015.