The adaptive steering system – developed in collaboration with Japanese auto parts manufacturer Takata – uses a precision-controlled actuator (electric motor and gearing system) placed inside the steering wheel to vary the ratio between the driver’s steering inputs and how much the front wheels turn.
Unlike traditional fixed-ratio steering systems, adaptive steering systems continually change the steering ratio according to vehicle speed, with the aim of optimising steering response in all conditions.
Ford says at low speeds the system attempts to make the vehicle more agile and easier to turn by reducing the number of turns of the steering wheel required to angle the front wheels.
At higher speeds it claims to optimise steering response, and makes the vehicle to react more smoothly and precisely to driver inputs.
With the exception of the actuator, Ford says the integration of its adaptive steering system requires no change to a vehicle’s existing electric steering system.
The first Ford production vehicles equipped with adaptive steering will be released early in 2015. Ford is yet to announce which models will be first to feature the system, though it has used the new Mondeo during the development process, suggesting it's a likely front-runner to be one of the earliest adopters.
Honda was the first company in the world to offer a variable-ratio steering system in the S2000 Type V in 2000. A number of other manufacturers have released their own variable-ratio systems since.