Let the Apple Car rumors roll on. Apple has been granted a patent (number 11,370,475) for a “steer-by-wire system with multiple steering actuators.” In other words: a steering wheel.
About the patent
“Vehicle actuators” are controllable systems that cause or affect motion of a vehicle. In the patent filing, Apple says that steer-by-wire systems can eliminate or disconnect a physical connection between a steering wheel (also referred to as a hand wheel) and the road wheels (also referred to as steered wheels).
The rumored “Apple Car” will almost certainly be an electric vehicle with at least some self-driving functions. Some vehicles can be operated in an automated control mode, in which some or all of the tasks of driving are performed by an automated control system, and a manual control mode, in which all of the tasks of driving are performed by a human operator.
In addition to these modes, some vehicles can also be operated in a remote control mode, in which some or all of the tasks of driving are controlled by an automated control system or a human driver that is not located in the vehicle.
Per Apple’s patent, in vehicles that incorporate automated control modes, the steer-by-wire system can be operated in multiple control modes. One control mode is a manual steer-by-wire mode in which the human operator steers the vehicle using the steering wheel without a physical connection from the steering wheel to the road wheels.
Another control mode is an automated steer-by-wire mode in which the steering actuators are controlled by commands from an automated control system or a remote control system without a physical connection from the steering wheel to the road wheels.
Another control mode is a fully manual mode in which the human operator steers the vehicle using a physical connection that is established between the steering wheel and the roads wheels. During operation of such a vehicle, transitions between the one or more automated control modes and the manual control mode may occur.
Summary of the patent
Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent: “A steering system includes an actuator, a steering wheel that generates inputs for the actuator in a manual steer-by-wire control state, and a controller that determines operating conditions for the actuator, the steering wheel, or both. The controller determines blended steering angles based on manual steering angles of the steering wheel and automatic steering angles associated with an automated steer-by-wire control state.
“The controller transitions operation of the steering system from the manual steer-by-wire control state to the automated steer-by-wire control state when all operating conditions are satisfied and uses a blending function that applies weighting values to the manual steering angles and the automated steering angles to determine the blended steering angles. The controller controls the actuator using the blended steering angles.”