Nexteer develops scalable EPS for multiple vehicle platforms

Nexteer Automotive's single, flexible architecture supports growth of advanced electronic functions for premium vehicles and new technology for emerging markets.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 02 Jul 2012 Views icon6798 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Nexteer develops scalable EPS for multiple vehicle platforms
NEXTEER AUTOMOTIVE HAS developed an innovative electronic architecture for its electric power steering (EPS) systems that will make integration of new electronic features faster and provide greater functional safety.

The architecture gives manufacturers a single, customisable 12-volt platform for all passenger vehicle types, from low-cost micro-cars to the highest-specification luxury SUVs.

“The industry’s migration from hydraulic to electric power steering as a key part of CO2 reduction strategies has led to record orders for Nexteer’s premium-feel EPS technology in the past two years,” said Laurent Bresson, vice-president, Global Sales and Marketing, and Chief Operating Officer, International Division. “The new architecture’s ability to deliver higher rack forces and customised electronic functions will help EPS migrate into new applications, creating further growth for Nexteer.”

“The architecture will enable manufacturers to introduce new, increasingly complex steering functions,” said Bertram Moeller, network leader, Systems Engineering Europe, Nexteer Automotive. “Instead of using standardised architectures for different vehicles classes, Nexteer’s single, highly flexible architecture adapts to suit individual customer requirements and future-proof platforms. The architecture also allows us to provide more power to the EPS, so that it can steer any passenger vehicle using a standard 12-volt supply.”

Development of electrical architectures for EPS is driven by a number of related factors. The introduction of new functional safety standard ISO 26262 is a major driver with compliance made more important after recent high-profile competitor product recalls. The introduction of the Autosar standardised software architecture also increases CPU memory requirements. At the same time a rise in the number of more complex functions, such as lane-keeping assistance, where multiple systems communicate, has increased the need for new communication structures, such as dual CANbus and FlexRay.

“Whereas a few years ago, customer specification sheets contained just two or three steering functions, a list of 20 is now common,” said Moeller. “To provide the substantial increase in processing power needed, Nexteer is using a new family of ISO 26262-compliant dual-core processors scalable in memory to 10 times than today with much higher processing speed. The first full implementation of the new electrical architecture enters production in 2013.”

Steering, along with the brake system, is a safety-related vehicle system. It is also the primary interface with the vehicle and road surface. Nexteer’s in-house software expertise enables it to deliver complex functions based on electronic control of the motor and its diagnostics that improve the driving experience and vehicle performance.

“Functions such as pull compensation, which keep the steering straight on crowned roads, and wheel imbalance rejection, which filters uncomfortable wheel vibrations, have significantly reduced warranty issues for Nexteer customers,” added Moeller. “The new architecture provides the processing power, functional safety, robust vehicle communication and standardised software required to introduce further functions such as lane-keeping assistance that coordinate with other vehicle systems. This intelligent approach will make it simpler for OEMs to offer customers new functions throughout vehicle lifecycles.”

The new architecture is fully scalable. At the entry level, a simplified control platform offers a low-cost system for economy cars and emerging markets, with the flexibility to add more sophisticated features for future models. For premium platforms, the modular nature of the architecture allows a high level of feature flexibility to enable a wide range of options and a development path into the future.

The introduction of the new architecture will integrate compliance to the ISO 26262 standard into Nexteer’s core development process and hardware design, making the development of new functions and the fulfillment of customer requirements faster.

India remains a high-growth market for Nexteer

Nexteer Automotive is investing $30 million (Rs 170 crore) to open its third components plant in India. The new facility in Chakan is scheduled to begin operations later this year. The supplier says the new factory will produce electric power steering systems as well as half-shafts, pumps and conventional hydraulic steering gear.

The new Chakan facility will be spread over 75,000 square feet and will generate 150 jobs. Initially the facility will support Nexteer’s half-shaft, pump and steering gear business. The Indian market is expected to increase adoption of electric power steering (EPS) over the next five years, and Nexteer is equipping its operations for this future transition and expansion. New emission standards in India are driving the conversion from hydraulic power steering (HPS) to EPS. At present, half-shafts account for nearly 75 percent of Nexteer’s business in India.

Nexteer expects India to remain a high growth market in the years to come. While the Chakan plant will initially help meet local customer demand, the investment will have long-term potential to serve the company’s global OEM customers on a much larger scale.

Nexteer’s other plants in Bangalore and Gurgaon employ a combined 600 people.
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