A nimble future: Company develops 360-degree steering module

The transport pods of the far distant future may operate far differently than we understand today. Protean Electric, a British automotive technology firm, revealed its latest development work Thursday: a 360-degree steering module.

While today’s steering systems lock at a certain degree when turning the wheel, Protean’s system provides the ability for the wheels and tires to rotate 360 degrees. The company said the system works with a state-of-the-art suspension setup, ride-height control, and its future in-wheel electric motor.

The module’s packaging will allow for a totally flat floor in the vehicle and make maneuvering around crowded city streets far easier. With the ability to rotate 360 degrees, it suddenly becomes a lot easier to turn onto a smaller street or park in a tight parking space. Protean is so confident in its technology that it foresees future vehicles equipped with the system won’t need to stop and steer to maneuver around an object.

Protean Electric 360-degree steering and suspension

Protean Electric 360-degree steering and suspension

Digging into the technical specs a little more, Protean explains its technology. The rotating interface sits atop a corner module’s main arm, where the top is fixed to the vehicle and the lower portion is attached to the module arm. Meanwhile, electric steer-by-wire tech points the axis at the bottom of the wheel. All of the control cables run down a channel in the module arm and connect in a second fixed interface within the wheel hub. Thus, when the wheel turns 360 degrees, the cables and running gear, so to speak, aren’t twisted.

The steering module works with Protean’s latest suspension, too. It features ride-height control thanks to a compressor that can individually send different air pressure to a certain part of the system. The result is a suspension that allows the vehicle to “kneel” when it’s picking up passengers or dropping them off. The company said wheelchair ramps aren’t needed as passengers will be able to enter right from a curb without stepping into the street.

Protean’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Back in June, NEVS purchased the company after it showed off its in-wheel electric motor concept. NEVS is the company that purchased the remaining elements of Saab after the Swedish company was axed during General Motors’ bankruptcy restructuring.

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