Development of New Steering Wheel Locking Mechanism for improved Safety during Automobile Collisions
This new technology could certainly makes a difference in personal safety during car crash. Conventionally, the steering system in the vehicle is responsible to translate the movement of the steering wheel to the wheels in terms of steering angle and force as the driver turns the steering wheel to turn his/her vehicle in the desired direction. In addition to this the steering system provides drivers with the mean of adjusting the steering wheel to the desired position in their vehicle. Furthermore, during collision, the steering column has been designed to collapse in order to soften its impact on the driver, in addition to introduction of airbags and seatbelts. Normally, the steering column which houses the driver’s airbag is required to sustain a strong impact, without moving up and down, as its airbag is deployed. Conventional steering column locking mechanism normally employs a multi-plate method which involves the layering of multiple steel plates to create friction in order to lock the steering wheel in place, however at the unlocked position this method does not provide enough clearance between the steel plates resulting in undesirable operation of steering system.
To make the matter worst, unstable levels of friction force which is inherent in this type of systems force the manufacturer of such system to introduce more steel plates in order to achieve the necessary locking force which results in more components and more weight. To overcome these issues, NSK has developed a new steering wheel locking mechanism wedge gear system offering superior locking force stability required in the event of collision. The new product offer smooth tilt adjustment, smoother gear engagement with secure locking mechanism. This product is designed with a wedge in the surface of the receiving gear that has very small teeth, providing a 26% improvement in steering wheel position locking force over the conventional design. The new product uses 70% less components than the conventional design resulting in a simpler assembly process and improved productivity at the assembly plant.